NASHVILLE, TENN.

- Dobie Gray was more than a smooth balladeer who recorded the timeless hit "Drift Away" in 1973.

He wrote songs for an array of country and pop performers, was a trailblazing entertainer in South Africa and a philanthropist.

Gray died in his sleep at his Nashville home Tuesday, after a long battle with cancer. He was 69.

Gray's silky tenor also was heard on other hits, including "The In Crowd," in 1965, and "Loving Arms," in 1973.

He wrote songs recorded by Ray Charles, Johnny Mathis, Etta James, Three Dog Night, Julio Iglesias, John Denver, George Jones and Tammy Wynette.

Gray sang on several motion- picture soundtracks including "Uptown Saturday Night," "Out of Sight" and "Casey's Shadow." Additionally, he sang advertising jingles for companies such as Clorox, Budweiser, Hardee's, Honda and Buick.

Gray was born into a family of sharecroppers in Simonton, Texas. In the early 1960s, he moved from Texas to California, where he met Sonny Bono, then an executive with Specialty Records. This led to his first record, "Look at Me," in 1963.

Gray willed much of his property and future earnings to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.