Singer, Actor. Velvet-voiced singer with a four-octave range known for such signature hits as "You'll Never Find (Another Love Like Mine)," "Lady Love" and "Love is a Hurtin' Thing." Lou Rawls who won three Grammy awards and 13 nominations over a nearly 50 year career, covered almost every form of African-American music from Gospel and Blues to R & B, Soul and Jazz. During his career, he opened for The Beatles and appeared with the legendary Sam Cooke, a childhood friend. He also served for several years as the TV spokesman for Budweiser. However, he will perhaps best be remembered for his charitable work, particularly his annual telethon for the United Negro College Fund started in 1979. A warm individual who was supremely generous in spirit. Rawls was a entertainer who genuinely liked people. Whether in an airport, on the street, in restaurants and backstage he always had a smile, a word, a handshake, a picture or an autograph for those who came up to him. He always ended his encounter with a big smile and his favorite phrase, "Yeah Buddy." Lou Allen Rawls was born in Chicago, Illinos on December 1, 1935, and was raised on the city's rough South Side by grandmother. Rawls begin singing in a choir at a local Baptist church at age seven. As a teenager, his singing mentorship expanded with trips to the Regal Theatre to see genere-crossing greats like Billy Eckstine, Arthur Prysock and Joe Williams. He also tried his hand at harmony-singing with schoolmate Sam Cooke, together in an 50s gospel outfit called the Teenage Kings of Harmony. Rawls moved on to sing with the Holy Wonders, and in 1951 replaced Cooke in the Highway Q.C.s. In 1953, when Specialty recording artists the Choosen Gospel Singers swung through Chicago on tour, they recruited Rawls as a new member and he moved to Los Angeles where he made his recording debut on a pair of sessions in early 1954. He then sang with the Pilgrim Travlers before quiting to enlist in 1956 as a paratrooper in the United States Army's 82nd Airborne Divison. Three years later in 1958 upon discharge, Sgt. Rawls returned to the Travelers and embarked on a tour with Cooke which nearly cost him his life. During the Southern leg of their tour Rawls was in a serious car crash which killed one passenger. Rawls was pronounced dead before getting to the hospital where he stayed in coma for almost a week. It took him months to regain his memory and a year to fully recuperate the life-changing event. After recovering, Rawls switched to secular music and hit the L. A. circuit with a vengeance, performing in clubs, coffehouses, and any other small venues that would allow him on-stage. During this period, he also landed his first acting role, a small part on the hit detective series 77 Sunset Strip. In 1962, he was discovered at a coffeeshop near Capitol Records headquarters by producer Nick Venet; at Venet's request, Rawls hastily recorded and audition tape, and wound up with a recording contract. The same year he sang background vocals with Sam Cooke's recording of "Bring it on Home to Me" with his first Capitol release being "Stormy Monday." Rawls developed a substanial following over the next few years with a mixture of new songs and covers of jazz and pop standards. He then scored big in 1966 with an excellent "Live!" album. In addition to including his most popular cut to date "Tobacco Road", the album also captured the storytelling and amusing stage banter that would become a Rawls trademark. His seven-minute working of "World of Trouble" (including three minutes of rapping) clearly demonstrated his strong rapport with the live audience. The album's highlight, however was his midtempo reading of the off-covered "St. James Infirmary," which stands to this day as the definitive version of that great song. As the 60s wore on, Rawls continued to grow in popularity. Though "Live!" went gold, Rawls woudn't have a star-making hit until he made "Soulin". The album contained his first R & B # 1 single, "Love Is a Hurtin' Thing." In 1967, he won his first Grammy for Best R & B Vocal Performance for "Dead End Street." However, the quality and soulfulness of his recordings diminshed significantly in this period, as jazz instrumentation gave way to MOR string sections and Vegas-style pop. Things even got worse in the early 70s, as he signed with MGM Records for a couple of dreadful pop albums that further took him away from his jazz and soul foundation. In 1971, Rawls released the Grammy-wining single "Natural Man," a song whose theme was black pride and five years later after smartly signing a year earlier with Gamble & Huff's Philadelphia International Records his greatest album success came with "All Things in Time." The album produced his most successful single, "You'll Never Find (Another Love Like Mine)," which topped the R & B charts and went to number two on the pop side and also went platinum. Other albums, such as 1977's When You've Heard Lou, You've Heard It All yielded such Top 25 singles as "Lady Love" and he continued the rest of the decade with such hits as "See You When I Git There" and "Groovy People." By the end of the 70s, Rawls had accumulated a catalog of songs and a strong stage presence that made him an in-demand performer internationally. He was also beloved in the African-American community for his unceasing support of higher education, most notably through his annual telethon in started in 1979: the Lou Rawls Parade of Stars Telethon for the United Negro College Fund, which raised and continues to raise millions for black colleges around the United States. When the hits stoped coming at PIR in the early 80s, Rawls signed with Epic Records (1982-1986) that proved a commercial dissappointment. From the 80s on, Rawls played the part of a well-established entertainer, rather than focusing his energies on maintaining a chart presence. By then, Rawls was more intrested in running the telethon and conducting extensive tours of American military bases around the world. This period was most notable for his recording of "Wind Beneath My Wings," still the best version of that song. Later in the decade, he moved to Blue Note, where he recorded some very nice albums aimed at Smooth Jazz audiences. His recordings "You Can't Go Home No More," "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" and duets with Jazz star Dianne Reeves on the 1989 Grammy-nominated "At Last" and "Fine Brown Frame" highlighted a productive renaissance perio! d for him. After 1993's "Portrait of the Blues," Rawls ended his tenure with Blue Note and stopped actively recording for several years. During the latter half of the 90s, Rawls returned to his acting career with greater frequency, appearing in the acclaimed Leaving Las Vegas (among many other films and TV shows) and also pursuing voice-over work in cartoons like Hey Arnold and Rugrats. Most of his 90s recordings would be holiday collections. He returned in 1998 with the quickly forgotten theme album, "Seasons For U" (which he independently released). Rawls entered the new millennium by returning to his gospel roots on 2001's "I'm Blessed" (astonishingly, his first solo gospel album) and 2002's "Oh Happy Day." Then in 2003, at age 70, he suprised the music world by releasing the tribute disc, Rawls Sings Sinatra on Savoy Jazz, which hit the top 5 on the Jazz charts. On December 19, 2005, Rawls tried to ann! ul his two-year marriage to Nina Malek Inman Rawls in order to "protect hundreds of thousands of dollars." That same month, it was announced that he was being treated for lung and brain cancer which he died from at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on the morning of January 6, 2006. During his life, Rawls released more than 70 albums, won 3 Grammy's and received many honors, including a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame and a street in his native Chicago which he loved named after him. Famed singer Frank Sinatra once said that Rawls had "the classiest singing and silkiest chops in the singing game." Lou Rawls longevity and his accomplishments both musically and socially- will remain among the most impressive in the Soul Music world.
Bio by: Curtis Jackson
Amazing Husband, Father, Humanitarian