Charles, who went blind by the time he was 7 and was an orphan at 15, composed music that defied definition, with hints of blues, jazz, country and big band. He won 12 Grammy awards, nine of which came between 1960 and 1966, including the best R&B recording three consecutive years for "Hit the Road Jack," "I Can't Stop Loving You" and "Busted."
Throughout his career, Charles partnered with musicians as varied as Eric Clapton, Willie Nelson and Chaka Khan. He was on the big screen in "The Blues Brothers" and the small screen in Pepsi's long-running "uh-huh" ad campaign.
Even after Charles' death, his legacy lives on. His latest album, "Genius Loves Company," is nominated for seven Grammy awards, including record of the year for "Here We Go Again," a duet with Norah Jones. And the biopic "Ray" has won critical claim.
Jerry Orbach, who played the hardened detective Lennie Brisco from TV's "Law & Order," died on Dec. 28 of prostate cancer, just as production had begun on the spinoff "Law and Order: Trial by Jury," which had been expected to premiere early in 2005, according to his publicist.
The 69-year-old Bronx-born actor was also a Broadway song-and-dance man, appearing in productions of the hit musicals "Carnival," "Chicago," "42nd Street" and "Promises, Promises," for which he won a Tony Award.
On the big screen, he'll be remembered for his work in "Dirty Dancing," "Prince of the City" and "Crimes and Misdemeanors."
Rodney Dangerfield, the bug-eyed comic who built a career on his trademark lament of "I don't get no respect," died Oct. 9 at 83 after suffering a stroke during heart surgery and slipping into a coma.
Dangerfield forged a career of poking fun at his troubles. He struck gold with his poor-me, "no-respect" persona, complete with nervous tie-tugging and brow-mopping.
Dangerfield became a hit on the stand-up circuit in the 1960s. Ed Sullivan gave him his big break on television, and later appearances on "The Tonight Show" and "Saturday Night Live" gave him a national audience.
Many notable movie roles followed. In the 1980 hit "Caddyshack," Dangerfield guaranteed his place in American comedy with his role as Al Czervik, an obnoxious rich golfer. Dangerfield often played different versions of the same character, and audiences loved it. In 1983's "Easy Money," he was a big hit as a working-class guy who suddenly becomes a millionaire. His 1986 film "Back to School" was one of the first comedies to earn more than $100 million.
As founder and owner of the New York City comedy club Dangerfield's, the comic helped a number of struggling comedians who later became stars, including Jim Carrey, Roseanne and Jerry Seinfeld.
Julia Child, the woman who brought French cooking to the American masses, died Aug. 13 at 91.
With her warbly voice, tall stature and penchant for decadent French fare, Child swooped on to the American food scene just in time. Her many cookbooks and television shows saved America from frozen TV dinners and recipes with canned mushroom soup.
The appeal of the "French Chef," her popular, no-frills PBS television show in the 1960s was based on "Child's charm, lack of pretension and endearing klutziness," according to Washington Post Book World.
Her tendency to drop pans and cut herself was endearing but it was also born of necessity -- the show was on such a low budget it could only afford to film scenes once.