In 2004, Ray Charles died at the age of 74 in his home located in Beverly Hills, but who did he leave his money to?
After his death in 2004, Ray Charles left most of his money and real estate to the Ray Charles Foundation which is a charity that supports the vision and/or hearing impaired. Another chunk of it went to the $500,000 trust funds he left for each of his 12 children.
Read more about why Ray Charles was famous and discover more on the legal battle around the money he left behind.
The Pioneer of Soul Music
Ray Charles was a pianist, composer, singer and bandleader described as “a pioneer of soul music” by biographers. He was born in 1930 in Georgia and died in 2004 at his home in Beverly Hills, California.
Charles began to lose his sight when he was five, and later developed glaucoma. By the age of seven, he had to have his eye removed as he was experiencing intense pain.
According to the Ray Charles Foundation’s website, “Although Mr. Charles lost his sight at age 7, he never felt he was handicapped. He rather believed that “the inability to hear was a handicap not the inability to see.”
Charles revolutionized soul music with his combination of blues, gospel and jazz to create some of the most innovative and groundbreaking hits like “Unchain My Heart”.
He’s famous for hits that went down in history such as “I Got a Woman”, “Hit the Road, Jack” and “Mess Around.”
Of his music, Charles revealed in an interview with The Guardian before his death, “They call my singing ‘emotional’ and ‘full of feeling’, but that’s how the songs are to me. I try to get the feel of a song and the emotion in it before I record it. It’s got to move me. If I don’t feel anything from the song, then I forget it. I don’t record it.”
The Legal Turmoil After His Death
According to an article from LA Times, two years prior to his death, Charles held a meeting with his children to inform them that he was terminally ill with cancer and was on death’s door. He had notified them of their trust funds, and hinted that they’d receive more money further down the line.
Charles’ kids were under the impression that “receiving more money” down the line meant that they’d eventually receive the royalties from his music and that they’d eventually receive licencing rights over his work.
This confusion led to legal disputes with Charles’ manager and other people related to his music and the Ray Charles Foundation. LA Times reports that Charles’ masters are worth around $25 million, and on top of that he had around $50 million in other assets.
Charles’ manager was left with virtually all of what Charles had left behind including his real estate and he was even the trustee on his children’s trust fund accounts. It is alleged that he kept the family and the children away from honoring Charles’ life, preventing them from going to their own father’s funeral.
Under copyright laws, the children tried to get the rights to Charles’ music back, however this led to them being sued by the Ray Charles Foundation who said that the children were in breach of the agreement with their father. By 2015, the foundation had won a lawsuit that prevented the children from receiving any more interest on their father’s estate.
Despite all the legal turmoil that his family endured, people still remember him as a genius, “a true innovator who revolutionized music and the business of music” and someone who “did things the way he wanted”.