Fans, Friends Mourn Ray Charles
LOS ANGELES – Fans and musical associates are said a final farewell today to music legend Ray Charles (search). A host of celebrities gathered in a Los Angeles church for Charles' funeral.
Stevie Wonder, (search) B.B. King and Willie Nelson (search) were among the stars say goodbye to the late, great musician at a ceremony celebrating the life of the blind musician and the cheerfulness of his songs like "Georgia On My Mind" and "What'd I Say."
The invitation-only funeral at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Los Angeles began begin at 10 a.m., and will be followed a day of public mourning for the Grammy-winning musician, who died last week at 73.
His body was laid out Thursday in an open casket wearing his trademark dark glasses, adjacent to a baby grand piano with sheet music from some of his songs.
The music was all Charles -- singing such favorites as "I Can't Stop Loving You" and "Born to Lose," as mourners walked a long red carpet past his casket.
His initials were spelled out in a giant R and C made from white chrysanthemums and carnations, and one of Charles' colorful jackets rested on the empty piano bench.
More than 5,000 people, including Mayor James Hahn, streamed through, many of them stopping outside to sign guestbooks or write a message on a large poster of Charles in performance.
The Rev. Charles Peters, 71, of Gardena, attended the viewing with a robotic doll of Charles that moves and sings "America the Beautiful" and "What'd I Say" while the hands tap on a small piano.
"He made a lot of people happy," Peters said. "He was just an outstanding performer, and he was an outstanding individual because he overcame obstacles, when you realize the man was blind since the age of 7. ... I'm here to pay my respects."