Charles had diabetes and was in remission from kidney cancer, said his publicist, Karen Johnson, but she did not know the cause of death.
He had been living in his native Abbeville since his home in Holly Beach in south Louisiana was destroyed by Hurricane Rita in 2005.
Charles, a Louisiana Cajun whose real name was Robert Charles Guidry, was known for his reclusiveness. The songwriter was a reluctant performer who for several decades had stayed largely out of the public eye.
In the 1970s, Charles wrote "The Jealous Kind," which was recorded by Joe Cocker in 1976, followed by Ray Charles, Delbert McClinton, Etta James and Johnny Adams. Kris Kristofferson and Gatemouth Brown covered Charles' "Tennessee Blues."
Charles and New Orleans pianist Dr. John had just wrapped up an album titled "Timeless," a collection dedicated to Domino that is due to be released next month.