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Last Updated: Friday, 18 June, 2004, 22:38 GMT 23:38 UK
Singer Charles mourned at funeral
Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder was one of many musicians paying tribute to Charles
More than 1,200 people said their final farewells to musician Ray Charles at his funeral in Los Angeles.

Actor Clint Eastwood, the Reverend Jesse Jackson and country music star Glen Campbell were among those paying their respects to the R&B star.

Charles died of acute liver disease last week, aged 73.

Fellow artists Stevie Wonder, Willie Nelson and BB King performed musical tributes at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church service.

Cortege

Hundreds of floral tributes, including a huge wreath of chrysanthemums spelling out the letters RC, surrounded the church.

Many of the congregation had to queue for two hours due to tight security. Streets around the church were closed off, and police helicopters monitored the situation from above.

Veteran politician Reverend Jesse Jackson and actress Cicely Tyson were among the mourners.

Recorded tributes from producer Quincy Jones, and comedian Bill Cosby were played during the service.

Rev Jesse Jackson and Willie Nelson

After the funeral, Charles' cortege was due to pass in front of his Los Angeles recording studio and pause for a minute's silence, before travelling to Inglewood, California, for a private burial.

On Thursday, Charles' body went on public display at the Los Angeles Convention Centre to allow thousands of fans to pay their respects.

Charles' publicist Eric Raymond said the star's family had requested he be put on display as a final tribute to his fans.

Fans filed slowly by the coffin that stood on a catafalque - a raised platform - inside the Convention Centre, many of them stopping to sign the condolence book or write a message on a huge poster of Charles in performance.

One of the star's trademark black and silver jackets sat on the empty seat of the piano.

'Magical'

"The man is magical. He was one of the great musicians of all time... It was like he was God-sent," said Evelyn Alexander, 61, from Inglewood.

"I love Ray Charles. I love his music absolutely. He was a virtuoso, he played everything," said 70-year-old Berta Morley, choking back tears.

Ray Charles fans
Mourners viewed Charles' casket at Los Angeles Convention Centre
"There is no one else who can sing a song with the deep feeling he had," she added.

A pioneer of soul music, Charles went blind at the age of six.

He made standards of songs such as Georgia on My Mind, Hit the Road Jack and I Can't Stop Loving You, and played 10,000 concerts during a 58-year career.

Charles kept a largely low profile during his recent ill health - but still managed to collaborate with other musicians. He had planned to tour again this summer.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Peter Bowes
"It was a colourful and moving send off for one of the all time greats from the world of soul music"


David Ritz, biographer
"He was a tremendously driven man"



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