Louis Allen Rawls (December 1, 1933 – January 6, 2006)
was a Chicago-born American soul music, jazz, and blues singer. Known for his smooth vocal style, Frank Sinatra once said that Rawls had "the classiest singing and silkiest chops in the singing game.
Rawls had released more than 70 albums, been in movies, television shows and voiced-over many cartoons. A high school classmate of soul giant Sam Cooke, Rawls sang with Cooke in the Teenage Kings of Harmony, a 50’s gospel group. Rawls enlisted in the U.S. Army as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division in 1955. He left the "All-Americans" three years later as a Sergeant and hooked up with a group with whom he had sung before enlisting, the Pilgrim Travelers.
In 1958, while touring the South with the Travelers and Sam Cooke, Rawls was in a serious car crash that claimed the life of one person. Rawls was actually pronounced dead before getting to the hospital where he stayed in a coma for 5-1/2 days. It took him months to regain his memory and a year to fully recuperate. Rawls considered the event life-changing.
Rawls 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". His first Capitol release was "Stormy Monday" (a.k.a. "I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water"), a jazz album. Though his 1966 album "Live!" went gold, Rawls wouldn’t 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". 1967 saw Rawls win his first Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance for "Dead End Street". After leaving Capitol in 1971, Rawls joined MGM and released the Grammy-winning single "Natural Man".
In 1976, Rawls had his greatest album success with the platinum-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 charts and went to number two on the pop side and also went platinum. Subsequent albums, such as 1977’s When You’ve Heard Lou, You’ve Heard It All yielded such Top 25 singles as "Lady Love".
In 1980, Rawls began the "Lou Rawls Parade of Stars Telethon" which benefits the United Negro College Fund. The annual event, now known as "An Evening of Stars", consists of musical performances and stories of successful African American students who have graduated or benefitted from one of the many historically black colleges and universities who receive support from the UNCF. The event has raised over US$200 million for the fund thus far (2006).
In January 2004, Mr. Rawls was honored by the United Negro College Fund for his more than 25 years of charity work with the organization. Instead of Rawls’ hosting and performing, he was given the seat of honor and celebrated by his performing colleagues, including Stevie Wonder, The O’Jays, Gerald Levert, Ashanti, and many others.
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.
Mr. Rawls lent his rich baritone voice to many cartoons, including Hey Arnold, Garfield, The Proud Family, and Captain Planet and the Planeteers.
For many years, he was a spokesperson for Colonial Penn.
Rawls was also a regular guest host on "Jazz Central", a program aired on the BET Jazz cable channel.
Rawls was famous for the expression, "Yeahhhh, buddy!"
He was featured on the "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" commentary track. At one point he had a scat singing contest with Will Ferrell.
He sang at the 2005 World Series that the White sox won.
Rawls was diagnosed with lung cancer in December 2004 and brain cancer in May 2005.
Besides his wife, Rawls is survived by four children: Louanna Rawls, Lou Rawls Jr., Kendra Smith and Aiden Rawls.