Lou Rawls information centre

A uniquely gifted singer

    As a singer, Lou Rawls remains one of the greats. His unique, instantly recognizable voice graced many albums over the years, in the new millennium from the Grammy nominated At Last to The Legendary Lou Rawls greatest hits collection. His concerts around the world were always sold out and he received great reviews. Rawls was seen regularly as the host of cable channel BET's Jazz Central Featuring Lou Rawls, which he premiered late 1994. Lou Rawls career as an actor was busy as well, his history in that genre is far shorter but clearly successful. In Baywatch Nights, the weekly one-hour action drama spin-off of the most successful franchise in the history of television, Rawls played the character "Lou," who runs the Southern California beachside nightclub "Nights." Rawls had a role in the critically-acclaimed feature film Leaving Las Vegas starring Nicolas Cage and Elisabeth Shue and has appeared in two other acclaimed independent films.

    Yet perhaps most importantly, as a philanthropist, Lou Rawls was an inspiration. In 1976, Rawls began his corporate spokesmanship with Anheuser Busch, the world's largest brewery, and ever since then his name is synonymous with "The King of Beers", Budweiser. With the support of this corporation, Rawls has made the United Negro College Fund a special beneficiary of his talents. Through Anheuser Busch's sponsorship of Lou Rawls' Parade of Stars telethon, begun in 1980, he broke the $100 million dollar mark on December 26, 1992, for 42 black colleges via telephone pledges. 1992 marked Rawls' thirteenth year of participation, an endeavor, he says, "helps children to become educated, useful human beings." Rawls is also the organizer of the Lou Rawls' Celebrity Golf Tournament in Los Angeles sponsored by Anheuser Busch to raise funds for the United Negro College Fund.

    Lou Rawls was born in Chicago and raised by his grandmother. His first exposure to music was in a church choir when he was seven-years-old, but he was mostly influenced by Chicago's Regal Theatre where he went to see the great Black entertainers of the day, induding Billy Eckstein, Arthur Prysock and Joe Williams. "I loved the way they could lift the spirit of the audience," Rawls says.

    After graduation from Dunbar Trade Technical High School, Rawls joined the touring gospel group, The Pilgrim Travelers. It was this experience that laid the foundation for his style and ability to relate to an audience. Rawls left the group to enlist in the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, home of the "Screaming Eagles", and in 1958 rejoined the singers.

    Lou Rawls was on-the-road, singing background with Sam Cooke when an accident occurred that left Cooke unharmed, a third person dead, and Rawls in a coma for five and one-half days with a memory loss for three months.

    "I really got a new life out of that, and saw a lot of reasons to live. I realized I had a immature attitude about life. I began to learn acceptance, direction, understanding and perception- all elements that had been sadly lacking in my life. I might have lived long enough to learn all this in the long haul, but I would have been just another soul taking up time and space for a long spell before I learned." Many of Lou Rawls' keen feelings and perceptions go into his performances. "I'm proud to say that when I sing, people tell me they listen to the words and know what I'm saying. For example, when I do Love's A Hurtin' Thing or Close Company I get a tremendous response," he says. "Recently, a woman came to me and asked, 'How do you know what my life is about? I feel as if you're singing to me,' and that makes me feel wonderful. It proves that I can relate to what my audience feels and thinks."

    Lou Rawls' big break came in late 1959 when he was performing at Pandora's Box Coffee Shop in Los Angeles. Nick Benet, a producer with Capitol Records asked Rawls if he wanted to make a record. The stunned singer did an audition tape and was soon signed to a contract. He then made the rounds of the top Los Angeles clubs and coffee houses, and began to enjoy a loyal and growing following.

    "But I knew nothing about the business," Rawls admits. "I was in transition from gospel music, and I had a lot of trial and error in learning. I was lucky to hook up with good people."

    With the recording of his first album in 1966, Lou Rawls Live, he received national recognition. The album went gold and received critical acceptance, which led to the album Love Is A Hurtin' Thing, which received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rhythm and Blues Solo Vocal Performance.

    Lou Rawls won his first Grammy in 1967 for Best Rhythm and Blues Vocal Performance on Dead End Street, which was also nominated for Best Rhythm and Blues Recording. A Grammy nomination for Your Good Thing (Is About To End) followed in 1969, and in 1971, Rawls won the Grammy for Best Rhythm and Blues Performance for Natural Man.

    It was in 1976, that Lou Rawls signed with Philadelphia International Records and began his association with Gamble and Huff and You'll Never Find (Another Love Like Mine). The song was the ballad dassic of the year and nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance. That year Rawls also was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rhythm and Blues Vocal Performance for Groovy People.

    1977 was also a good year as Lou Rawls captured another Grammy for Best Vocal Performance for Unmistakable Lou and in 1978 the singer was again nominated for Best Rhythm and Blues Vocal Performance for When You Hear Lou, You've Heard It All.

    Lou Rawls' 1982 Epic Records release, When The Night Comes, with the title track composed by Alan Merrill (who also wrote "I love rock 'n roll") garnered critical reviews, earned Rawls two Beach Music Awards and produced the hit singles "When The Night Comes", and "Wind Beneath My Wings". The singer was especially honored when Lt. Col. Guion Bluford, the first black astronaut, chose to take this album into space with him.

    Rawls then released the Epic album Love All Your Blues Away, which featured a 41-piece orchestra and guest artists induding Bill Champlin ("Chicago"), Richard Page and Steve George ("Mr. Mister") and producer/writer/performer David Foster.

    Lou Rawls gained popularity through his affiliation with the perennially-popular cartoon feline Garfield the Cat. He has provided his distinctive vocal styling for three animated Garfield specials produced by Lee Mendelson in association with United Feature Productions. Rawls was also featured on the Garfield soundtrack album released in conjunction with the first special.

    Since 1980, Lou Rawls presented a series of worldwide concerts for American military bases co-sponsored by Anheuser Busch, the U.S.O. and the Department of Defense. During Christmas of 1983, for example, Rawls toured bases in Korea, Japan and the Phillipines. "I initiated this program to highlight the importance of the job that the military is doing, and to show my appreciation to the servicemen and to my country," he says.

    Lou Rawls performed hundreds of concert dates each year. "And I'm always ready," he would say. "When I'm on the road, I click into my 'show business attitude' about 6:00 p.m. and gear myself up for the evening. I'm completely energized before I go on-stage. Then I click into overdrive," he laughs. A perfectionist, Rawls admits he "preaches" to his musicians before the concert. "I always tell them to leave their problems at home because they show up on stage and people in the audience don't care- they want to be entertained and they deserve to be entertained. I know if there's one cog in the wheel that doesn't function, it will show.


    Lou Rawls, whose mellifluous baritone was featured on hits ranging from his own "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine" to Sam Cooke's "Bring It on Home to Me," died in January of 2006. He was 72.

    Rawls died Friday morning at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California. He was hospitalized last month for treatment of lung and brain cancer, said his publicist, Paul Shefrin. His wife, Nina, was at his bedside when he died.

    The singer was as well known for his charitable activities as he was for his smooth four-octave range. He founded the Lou Rawls Parade of Stars Telethon, which raised millions of dollars for the United Negro College Fund.

    "What I really loved about Lou was how his voice was so unique," Kenny Gamble, who with his partner Leon Huff wrote "You'll Never Find," told The Associated Press.

    "The other thing was that he had a sense of community. Thousands and thousands of young kids benefited from his celebrity."

    "Lou Rawls was one of the music world's most versatile vocalists," said Recording Academy President Neil Portnow in a statement from the organization, which awards the annual Grammys. "His deep, smooth, soulful style exemplified his classy elegance and made him one of the most recognizable voices anywhere. And his philanthropic efforts on behalf of many charitable causes further displayed his passion and commitment to helping others through music. We have lost a true musical pioneer, but his legacy will continue to inspire us all."

    Rawls was born on December 1, 1933, in Chicago, Illinois. (Some sources say 1935.) He was trained in gospel, like his childhood friend Sam Cooke.

    As a teenager he took Cooke's place in Cooke's gospel group, the Highway QCs. He later supported Cooke on tour and in the studio.

    Rawls sang in a variety of styles, from gospel to soul to standards.

    "I've gone the full spectrum, from gospel to blues to jazz to soul to pop," Rawls once said on his Web site, according to the AP. "And the public has accepted what I've done through it all."

    Rawls sang background on Cooke's "Bring It on Home to Me" -- that's him doing the "yeah" responses and some harmonies. He had his first big solo hit with 1966's "Love Is a Hurtin' Thing," which earned him a mention in Arthur Conley's "Sweet Soul Music."

    He had his biggest hit in 1976 with "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine," which topped the R&B charts and hit No. 2 on the pop charts.

    Other hits include "Your Good Thing (Is About to End)," "A Natural Man" and "Lady Love."

    He won three Grammys and is reported to have sold more than 40 million albums.

    Rawls also appeared in a variety of TV shows and movies, including the films "Leaving Las Vegas" and "The Rugrats Movie" and the TV shows "The Big Valley," "Mannix," "Fantasy Island" and "Baywatch," according to the Internet Movie Database.

    His voice also graced TV commercials, notably ads for Anheuser-Busch, the beer company for which he was the corporate spokesman.

    Rawls was diagnosed with lung cancer in December 2004 and brain cancer in May 2005, according to the AP. Rawls, who quit smoking 35 years ago, remained upbeat during his battle against cancer.

    In a 1994 interview, CNN asked the legendary singer how he would like to be remembered. "Just somebody that took the problem in hand and tried to deal with it," he said.

    He is survived by his wife Nina, as well as his three adult children, Louanna Rawls, Lou Rawls Jr. and Kendra Smith, and his infant son, Aiden.

    Lou Rawls may be gone, but his music lives on in the hearts and homes of so many people whose life he touched with his extraordinary talent.

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    Lou Rawls videos below

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    Classic Lou Rawls "You'll Never Find"


    Lou Rawls - "When The Night Comes"


    "When The Night Comes"

    Words and Music Alan Merrill

    ATV Music Ltd. 1978


    I know Kyoto well as a foreigner can

    No gaijin really knows japan

    We can walk the streets

    take in the view

    The Kamogawa flows true

    I'd love to show it to you

    When the night comes

    I'm going to stand there

    in the moonlight with you

    We're going to sleep

    under the dark sky too

    Stars a rising

    When the night comes

    The streets of Paris

    they have got something!

    I love the atmosphere

    in spring

    Soul kissing by the stony

    banks of the Seine

    Left Bank and perfect rain

    I want to go there again

    When the night comes

    I'm going to stand there

    in the moonlight with you

    We're going to sleep

    under the dark sky too

    Stars a rising

    When the night comes

    Everybody knows

    it's better in the midnight hour

    Wilson Pickett says it's better

    in the midnight hour

    When the night comes

    I'm going to stand there

    in the moonlight with you

    We're going to sleep

    under the dark sky too

    Stars a rising

    When the night comes

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    This page was updated and checked Feb 4, 2017.

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