Louis Allen "Lou" Rawls (December 1, 1933 – January 6, 2006) was an American soul, jazz, and blues singer. He was known for his smooth vocal style: Frank Sinatra once said that Rawls had "the classiest singing and silkiest chops in the singing game". Rawls released more than 70 albums, sold more than 40 million records, appeared as an actor in motion pictures and on television, and voiced-over many cartoons. He
had been called “The Funkiest Man Alive”.
had been called “The Funkiest Man Alive”.
Lou Rawls, who learned of gospel music through his grandmother in Chicago, became a successful singer, primarily from the 1950s through the 1980s. He was a high school classmate of music giant Sam Cooke, and they sang together in the Teenage Kings of Harmony, a ’50s gospel group.
After graduating from Chicago’s Dunbar Vocational Career Academy, Rawls enlisted in the U.S. Army as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division. He left the “All-Americans” three years later as a sergeant, and hooked up with The Pilgrim Travelers as he travelled to Los Angeles. In 1958, while touring the South with the Travelers and Sam Cooke, Rawls was in a serious car crash. Rawls was pronounced dead before arriving at the hospital, where he stayed in a coma for five and a half days. It took him months to regain his memory, and a year to fully recuperate. Rawls considered the event to be life-changing.
Alongside Dick Clark as master of ceremonies, Rawls was recovered enough by 1959 to be able to perform at the Hollywood Bowl. He was signed to Capitol Records in 1962, the same year he sang the soulful background vocals on the Sam Cooke recording of “Bring it on Home to Me.” Rawls' first Capitol solo release was Stormy Monday (a.k.a. I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water), a jazz album, in 1962. On August 21, 1966, he opened for The Beatles at Crosley Field in Cincinnati.
Though his 1966 album Live! went gold, Rawls would not have a star-making hit until he made a proper soul album, appropriately named Soulin’, later that same year. The album contained his first R&B #1 single, “Love Is a Hurtin’ Thing”. In 1967 Rawls won his first Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance, for the single “Dead End Street.”
In 1969, the singer was co-host of NBC’s summer replacement series for the Dean Martin Show along with Martin’s daughter, singer Gail Martin.
After leaving Capitol in 1971, Rawls joined MGM, at which juncture he released his Grammy-winning single “Natural Man.” He had a brief stint with Bell Records in 1974, where he recorded a cover of Hall & Oates’ “She’s Gone.” In 1976, Rawls signed with Philadelphia International Records, where he had his greatest album success with the million-selling All Things in Time. The album produced his most successful single, “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine”, which topped the R&B and Adult Contemporary charts and went to number two on the pop side, becoming Rawls’ only certified million-selling single in the process. In 1982, Rawls received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
On the night of September 29, 1977, Rawls performed the national anthem of the United States prior to the Earnie Shavers-Muhammad Ali title fight at Madison Square Garden. He would be requested to sing the anthem many times over the next 28 years, and his final performance of it came on October 23, 2005. The crowd at that performance may not have known that Rawls was extremely ill with cancer, but he reportedly delivered an electrifying performance to kick off Game Two of the 2005 World Series between the Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros.
In January 2004, Rawls was honoured by the United Negro College Fund for his more than 25 years of charity work with the organization. Instead of hosting and performing as he usually did, Rawls was given the seat of honor and celebrated by his performing colleagues, including Stevie Wonder, The O’Jays, Gerald Levert, Ashanti, and many others. His final television performance occurred during the 2005-2006 edition of the telethon, honouring Stevie Wonder in September 2005.
It was also announced in December 2005 that Rawls was being treated for cancer in both his lungs and brain. With his wife by his side, Lou Rawls succumbed to his illness on January 6, 2006, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles, California. (Info edited from Wikipedia)