A spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections says Manson died of natural causes late last night.
The gory slayings horrified the world and revealed a violent underbelly of a counterculture that preached peace and love.
The killings occurred on successive August nights and terrorized the city of Los Angeles.
Tate, the wife of film director Roman Polanksi, who was nearly nine months pregnant, was found stabbed repeatedly in her Hollywood mansion, along with several of her friends.
Other victims included coffee heiress Abigail Folger and celebrity hair stylist Jay Sebring.
The next night a wealthy couple was killed in a similar fashion.
Investigators learned Manson sent a group of disaffected young followers to commit murder as part of a twisted, quasi-religious belief that it would launch a race war.
Sharon Tate’s sister Debra told US broadcaster CBS that she was called shortly after his death by the prison where he had been incarcerated.
She said she was still processing the news, but added she had “said a prayer for Manson’s soul and has forgiven the family but refuses to forget what they did”.
Newspapers restarted the presses to update their front pages, with The New York Post’s reading: “Evil dead: Make room, Satan, Charles Manson is finally going to hell.”