Lou Rawls

  • Soul/R&B singer songwriter born Louis Rawls in Chicago Illinois in 1933. Died in 2006 from lung and brain cancer.
  • Rawls lived in the projects in Chicago, and began singing in a church choir at the age of 7. As a youth, he sang with gospel groups, meeting future music stars Sam Cooke and Curtis Mayfield. After high school, he briefly sang with Cooke as a member of the Teenage Kings of Harmony, and then with another gospel group, the Holy Wonders. In 1951, he joined the Highway QC’s, and then moved to Los Angeles to sing with the Chosen Gospel Singers (where he made his recording debut in 1954), and later with the Pilgrim Travelers. After a stint in the Army, he rejoined the Pilgrim Travelers.
  • In 1958, while on tour with the Travelers and Sam Cooke, he was in a near fatal car accident – he was pronounced dead before arriving at the hospital, was in a coma for nearly 6 days, and needed a year to fully recuperate. After recovering, he moved to popular music, performing in clubs and coffeehouses. He released 4 singles from 1959 to 1961, but nothing charted.
  • In 1962, a record producer heard him perform, and encouraged him to make an audition tape. He signed with a record label, and his debut record, a jazz album titled Stormy Monday, was released that year. He also sang backing vocals on 2 Sam Cooke hits, Bring It On Home To Me and That’s Where It’s At. 
  • Rawls’ next 2 albums, Black and Blue and Tobacco Road, both made the Billboard Album chart, giving him national exposure. The records were a combination of jazz, blues, R&B and pop, with some songs using a big band ensemble.
  • Over the next several years, he developed a distinctive style at his concerts where he would add spoken monologues to his songs – this style was used in some of his later studio work also. After several more albums, Rawls had his first major hit in 1966 – Love Is A Hurtin’ Thing from the album Soulin’. The single peaked at #13 on the Hot 100, and at #1 on the R&B chart. The following year, his album Too Much! included the song Dead End Street, which earned him his first Grammy award.
  • By this time, his smooth and classy crooner voice was recognized widely, and he was a popular performer on variety TV shows and in Las Vegas. In 1971, after releasing 20 albums with Capitol Records over 10 years, he switched labels to MGM. The first album, Natural Man, included the single of the same name. The song reached #17 on the Hot 100, and it won Rawls a second Grammy award.
  • Rawls continued to release albums with several different record labels. His biggest hits during this time were in 1976 with You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine (#2 on the Hot 100, #1 on the R&B chart) and Lady Love (#24 on the Hot 100). His 1997 album Unmistakably Lou earned him his third Grammy award.
  • In his career, he released 56 albums, his last a Christmas album in 2006, released after he died. Throughout his career, he acted in many TV shows and films – his first was in the western TV show The Big Valley, and he performed in films ranging from Leaving Las Vegas to Blues Brothers 2000. His distinctive voice was used in several cartoons, including Garfield, Rugrats and Hey Arnold! He also appeared in numerous commercials. His performance of the National Anthem at various events was legendary – his last performance was 12 weeks before his death at the 2005 World Series in Chicago, for his hometown White Sox.
  • In 1980, he began his annual Lou Rawls Parade of Stars Telethon, a charity television event to benefit the United Negro College Fund. He participated in the event for over 25 years, raising over $200 million for the charity.
  • Low Rawls was one smooth singer! Great silky baritone voice that could make you melt. Give a listen to my favorite Lou Rawls song, Lady Love.

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