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Honoring Lou Rawlsby Allyson Liggins
Copyright © 2006 Allyson Liggins
(Note: This obituary was written by Ms. Allyson Liggins, an honor student at Pacific High School in San Bernardino, California. The info is much the same as the first obituary posted for Lou Rawls, but I found it to be an exemplary piece of high-school journalism and opted to post it here for your enjoyment. – TSJ)
Honoring Lou Rawls who has entertained people all around the world
Lou Rawls, the smooth-voiced, enduring singing star whose career traced a line from gospel to jazz and pop, died at seventy-two on January 6, 2006 of lung cancer. He is survived by his wife and their son, Aiden. Another son, Lou Rawls Jr. of Los Angeles, and two daughters, Louanna Rawls of Los Angeles and Kendra Smith of Los Angeles, and four grandchildren also survive him.
Lou Rawls was born in Chicago and was raised by his father's mother, Rawls began singing at the age of seven in the choir of his church, the Greater Mount Olive Baptist Church. His singing became known around town.
Lou Rawls was in the recording business for forty years, and his voice is as distinctive and instantly recognizable as any in music. He received his first record deal from Capitol Records in 1959 where he spent a decade. He has released an astonishing sixty albums, three Grammy wins, thirteen Grammy nominations, one platinum album, five gold albums, and a gold single. In 1966 he had his first R&B No. 1 single, "Love Is a Hurtin' Thing," and in 1967, he won his first of three Grammy Awards for the song "Dead End Street."
In addition to singing, Rawls' talents continued into acting. Over the years he has appeared as a series regular, guest star and host in television series as well as TV Movies-Of-The-Week. In the past few years he has ventured into the feature film arena, taking on lead roles in independent films as well as smaller parts in movies such as Oscar-winning “Leaving Las Vegas”. Rawls has also appeared in children’s programs, becoming the singing voice of the animated feline Garfield. In 1982, he was Grammy-nominated for Best Recording for Children for “Here Comes Garfield” and is the musical star of the "Garfield" TV specials. He is also the voice of Harvey the Mailman on Nickelodeon's "Hey Arnold" series. He is also known for hosting the Lou Rawls Parade of Stars Telethon, a yearly television event which he started in 1980 that raised hundreds of millions of dollars for the United Negro College Fund.
Lou Rawls was an outstanding singer and entertainer, community activist, and talented actor. He applied his velvet baritone voice with effortless flexibility to gospel, blues, jazz, soul and middle-of-the-road pop, ensuring his success that will last beyond his death.
Allyson Liggins is an honor student in the journalism program at Pacific High School in San Bernardino, CA.
Soulful Grammy-winning vocalistby Todd S. Jenkins
Copyright © 2006 Todd S. Jenkins
Singer Lou Rawls, whose four-octave range earned him three Grammys and sales of more than forty million albums over a phenomenal five-decade career, died of cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on January 6, 2006. He was 72 years old. He had been diagnosed with lung cancer in December 2004, and by May it had metastasized to his brain.
Louis Allen Rawls’ voice was a unique, velvety bass-baritone that he began honing as a choirboy in Chicago. Hearing singers like Joe Williams and Billy Eckstine stimulated his interest in jazz, but first his affinity for gospel music led him to a career in the Pilgrim Travelers, a touring gospel ensemble. Rawls moved to Los Angeles in the mid-50s to join the band, with which he worked for a few years before joining the U.S. Army.
Following his military service, Rawls returned to L.A. and the Pilgrim Travelers. One of his bandmates was Sam Cooke, who began opening doors for the promising young singer in the pop world. All of that promise almost came to an end in 1958, when the Travelers suffered a car accident while on tour. Rawls was initially pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital but survived through a six-day coma. It took a year for him to recover enough to resume the road to stardom.
In 1959 Rawls performed with Dick Clark at the Hollywood Bowl, and in 1961 landed a legendary opening spot for the Beatles in Cincinnati. The following year, while singing in a Los Angeles blues club, Rawls caught the ear of Capitol Records producer Nick Venet, who immediately signed the singer. He made his auspicious debut with Stormy Monday (Capitol, 1962), an enduring album of jazz and blues standards recorded with the Les McCann Ltd. Around the same time he landed his first acting role, on TV’s hip “77 Sunset Strip”, and provided backing vocals on his friend Sam Cooke’s hit “Bring It On Home to Me”.
After leaving Capitol in 1971, Rawls scored a hit at MGM (“Natural Man”) but did not find a regular home until 1976 when he signed with soul label Philadelphia International. Rawls amassed three Grammy awards and thirteen nominations during his career, churning out occasional hits like “Love Is A Hurtin’ Thing” (Soulin’, 1966), “Dead End Street” (Too Much, 1967, produced by David Axelrod) and “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine” (All Things in Time, 1976, Philadelphia Int’l), a surprising disco-era smash that typified his refusal to be pigeonholed as a jazz or soul singer.
Rawls established a side career as an actor and guest-star, appearing in eighteen movies and sixteen television series in the 1970s and 80s, including voiceovers for the cartoons “Garfield”, “Hey Arnold” and “Rugrats”. He was a children’s advocate and community activist, hosted telethons for the United Negro College Fund, and was a corporate spokesman for Anheuser-Busch in the 1980s. In 1998 he issued Seasons 4 U on his own Rawls & Brokaw label, then returned to his gospel roots on I’m Blessed (2001, Malaco) and Oh Happy Day (601 Records, 2002). The final album released in his lifetime was an about-face back to jazz, Rawls Sings Sinatra (2003, Savoy Jazz).
Lou Rawls is survived by his wife, Nina; daughters Louanna and Kendra; and sons Lou Jr. and Aiden.
Todd S. Jenkins
Todd S. Jenkins is a member of the JJA, author of Free Jazz and Free Improvisation: An Encyclopedia (Greenwood Press, 2004) and I Know What I Know: The Music of Charles Mingus (Praeger, 2006), and a contributor to Down Beat, All About Jazz, American Songwriter and Route 66 Magazine.