The great singer and pianist Ray Charles died Thursday, June 10, at the age of 73. He was about to go back on tour, but died of complications of liver disease. Charles shaped American music since the 1950s, at first copying the styles of black vocalists like Nat King Cole and Charles Brown. But he soon developed a style all his own. His career grew along with Atlantic records, which signed him as a fledgling label. Charles' first hit was "I've Got a Woman" in 1955. He went on to record more bluesy, gospel-charged hits, country, jazz and rock.
Saxophonist Hank Crawford died Jan. 29 at the age of 74. The Memphis-born musician backed B.B. King and Ray Charles before going solo. He later became the musical director for Charles' band. Fresh Air remembers Crawford with a 1998 interview.
Rock Historian Ed Ward has pt 2 of 2 in our look at Ray Charles career. This year marks his 50th year in the music business. Much of the music comes from "Ray Charles: Genius & Soul: The 50th Anniversary Collection" (Rhino)