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Lou Rawls (1933)

Louis Allen Rawls

Type :  


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.

Rawls is the subject of an upcoming biopic, tentatively titled Love Is a Hurtin' Thing: The Lou Rawls Story. Rawls' son, Lou Rawls Jr., is the author of the script. Rawls will reportedly be portrayed by the actor Isaiah Washington. Rawls' favorite expression was "Yeah buddy!"


Rawls was born on December 1, 1933 in Chicago and raised by his grandmother in the Ida B. Wells projects on the city's South Side. He began singing in the Greater Mount Olive Baptist Church choir at the age of seven and later sang with local groups through which he met future music stars Sam Cooke, who was nearly three years older than Rawls, and Curtis Mayfield.

After graduating from Chicago's Dunbar Vocational High School, he sang briefly with Cooke in the Teenage Kings of Harmony, a local gospel group, and then with the Holy Wonders. In 1951, Rawls replaced Cooke in the Highway QC's after Cooke departed to join The Soul Stirrers in Los Angeles. Rawls was soon recruited by the Chosen Gospel Singers and himself moved to Los Angeles, where he subsequently joined the Pilgrim Travelers.

In 1955, 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 rejoined the Pilgrim Travelers . 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" and "That's where it's at," both written by Cooke. Rawls himself charted with a cover of "Bring it on home to me" in 1970 (with the title shortened to "Bring It On Home").

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 1967, Rawls also performed at the first evening of the Monterey International Pop Music Festival.

In 1969, the singer was co-host of NBC's summer replacement series for the Dean Martin Show along with Martin's daughter, singer Barbara Gail Martin.

After leaving Capitol in 1971, Rawls joined MGM, at which juncture he released his Grammy-winning single "Natural Man" written for him by comedian Sandy Baron and singer Bobby Hebb. 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.

Subsequent albums, such as 1977's When You Hear Lou, You've Heard It All yielded such hit singles as "Lady Love". Other releases in the 1970s included the classic album Sit Down And Talk To Me.

Rawls' 1977 Grammy Awards performance of "You'll Never Find" was disrupted by a coughing fit.

In 1982, Rawls received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Sang the lyrics to WGN-TV's 1983 "Chicago's Very Own" ad campaign, a slogan that the station still uses to this day.

In 1989, he performed vocals for "The Music and Heroes of America" segment in the animated television miniseries This is America, Charlie Brown.

 "The Star Spangled Banner"
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 at U.S. Cellular Field in his hometown of Chicago. He had also sung the National Anthem at two previous World Series games: the 1982 World Series opener between the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers and Game Three of the 1985 World Series between the Cardinals and the Kansas City Royals, both at Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis.

 Honors and charity work

In 1980, Rawls began the "Lou Rawls Parade of Stars Telethon" which benefits the United Negro College Fund. The annual event, known since 1998 as "An Evening of Stars: A Celebration of Educational Excellence", consists of stories of successful African-American students who have benefited from and/or graduated from one of the many historically black colleges and universities who receive support from the UNCF, along with musical performances from various recording artists in support of the UNCF's and Rawls' efforts. The event has raised over US$200 million in 27 shows for the fund through 2006.

In January 2004, Rawls was honored 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, honoring Stevie Wonder in September 2005, just months before entering the hospital and after having been diagnosed with cancer earlier in the year. This program, aired in January, 2006, contains his final public television performance, where he performed two classics, "You Are the Sunshine of My Life," and a final ode to Frank Sinatra with, "It Was A Very Good Year."

At the time of Rawls' death, news and UNCF figures noted the significance of Rawls' final performance, "It Was a Very Good Year." The song is a retrospective of one's life and its lyrics include, "When I was seventeen, it was a very good year. It was a very good year for small town girls and soft summer nights...And now those days grow short, it is the autumn of years, and now I think about life as vintage wine from fine old kegs, from the brim to the dregs, it pours sweet and clear, it was a very good year."

 Acting career
Rawls appeared in a segment of the first season of Sesame Street, to sing the alphabet. He dismissed the concept of using cue cards for the performance, but reversed such decision when he forgot the order of the letters.

Throughout Rawls' singing career, he had the opportunity to appear in many films, television shows, and commercials. He can be seen in such films as Leaving Las Vegas, Blues Brothers 2000, and Angel, Angel, Down We Go. He had a supporting role in the Baywatch spin-off, Baywatch Nights. He also appeared in the western television series, The Big Valley, where he played a hired hand. Here, he delivered the memorable line: "Ain't a horse that can't be rode; ain't a man that can't be throwed".

Rawls lent his rich baritone voice to many cartoons, including Hey Arnold! as the voice of Harvey The Mailman, Garfield, and The Proud Family . For many of the Film Roman Garfield specials, Rawls would often compose songs for them, which he would then sing usually doing a duet with Desiree Goyette, as well as the singing voice of the title character himself.

For many years, he was a spokesperson for the Colonial Penn Life Insurance Company, helping promote the brand on radio and TV to African-American markets much as Ed McMahon did for the white audience. He was also a spokesman for Budweiser. Budweiser was a key sponsor for the Rawls telethon and UNCF. There was no attempt to avoid the similarity between the title of the 1977 album When You've Heard Lou, You've Heard It All and his corporate sponsor's slogan "When You Say Budweiser, You've Said It All". A track on the 1978 album Lou Rawls Live, features Rawls singing the commercial slogan. Anheuser-Busch, the brewers of Budweiser, also suggested his telethon work to him.

Rawls was also a regular guest host on "Jazz Central", a program aired on the BET Jazz cable channel.

He appears as "Dr. Rawls" in a dream on an episode My Wife and Kids, where he breaks into a parody version of "You'll Never Find", which a frightened Damon Wayans is afraid of having a colonoscopy the following day. Rawls uses the scope as a microphone in the scene.
Rawls appears as a commentator in the second half of both the rated and unrated versions of the commentary for Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy DVD commentary track, despite having nothing to do with the film itself. During the track, he indulges the commentators' request, participating in a scatting contest with Will Ferrell.

Rawls also appeared in an episode of Baywatch as a bookie.

Rawls was also a guest star during the second season of The Muppet Show. He also made a brief appearance on the series finale of Martin.

 Billboard Top 50 hit singles
The following is a list of Rawls singles that made the top 50 on the Billboard Hot 100. His first Hot 100 entry was "Three O'Clock in the Morning" in 1965, and his final was "Wind Beneath My Wings" in 1983. In addition to those two, nine other singles peaked at positions below the top 50 on the Hot 100, and additional singles reached the R&B, Adult Contemporary and Bubbling Under charts.
  • "Love Is a Hurtin' Thing" - 1966, #13 (also #1 R&B)
  • "Dead End Street" - 1967, #29
  • "Show Business" - 1967, #45
  • "Your Good Thing " - 1969, #18
  • "A Natural Man" - 1971, #17
  • "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine" - 1976, #2 (also #1 R&B and #1 Easy Listening); another certified gold for sales of one million copies
  • "Lady Love" - 1978, #24

 personal life
In January 2003, Rawls was arrested in Albuquerque, New Mexico, after getting into an argument with his then-girlfriend, Nina Malek Inman. During the course of the argument, he reportedly shoved her resulting in one charge of battery on a household member. The charge was later dropped. Rawls and Inman married later that same year.

On December 19, 2005, the Associated Press reported that Rawls tried to annul his two-year marriage to wife Inman Rawls, who had been acting as his business manager, after it was discovered she had made unauthorized transfers amounting to nearly $350,000 from his bank account into an account solely controlled by her. She later stated that she had transferred the funds to protect them from one of Rawls' daughters from a previous relationship.

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 Center in Los Angeles, California.

In addition to his wife of two years and their young son, Aiden Allen Rawls; Rawls left behind adult daughter Louanna Rawls ; adult daughter Kendra Smith; adult son Lou Rawls, Jr.; and three granddaughters: Brianna, Katrina, and Chayil.

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Name Duration Released
One Day Soon You'll Need Me 04:38 01/1980
Old Times 04:26 01/1980
You're My Blessing 04:22 01/1980
Sit Down and Talk to Me 04:53 01/1980
When You Get Home 04:51 01/1980
Ain't That Loving You 04:39 01/1980
Heartache (Just When You Think You're Loved) 04:43 01/1980
Lover's Holiday 05:20 05/1979
Let Me Be Good to You 05:26 05/1979
Bark, Bite 04:28 05/1979
We Keep Getting Closer to Being Farther Apart 04:11 05/1979
Tomorrow 03:59 05/1979
What's the Matter with the World? 05:55 05/1979
Time Will Take Care of Everything 04:36 05/1979
See You When I Git There 04:43 1977
Lady Love 04:01 1977
I Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda 04:32 1977
It's Our Anniversary Today 03:42 1977
That Would Do It for Me 03:13 1977
We Understand Each Other 04:19 1977
Unforgettable 03:25 1977
Secret Tears 04:08 1977
There Will Be Love 04:20 1977
Someday You'll Be Old 03:43 1977
Trade Winds 03:47 1977
Some Folks Never Learn 03:32 1977
Dollar Green 03:09 1977
Early Morning Love 05:44 1977
One Life to Live 03:53 1977
Spring Again 04:29 1977
I Wish It Were Yesterday 03:27 1977
You're the One 05:19 1976
This Song Will Last Forever 05:05 1976
Pure Imagination 03:40 1976
From Now On 04:56 1976
Need You Forever 04:33 1976
Groovy People 03:19 1976
Time 02:54 1976
You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine 04:26 1976
I'm Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town 04:00 1962
Willow Weep for Me 05:57 1962
See See Rider 03:11 1962
God Bless the Child 04:30 1962
Stormy Monday 03:45 1962

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Lou Rawls", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.