Louis Allen “Lou” Rawls (December 1, 1933 – January 6, 2006) was an American recording artist, voice actor, songwriter, and record producer.
He is best known for his singing ability: Frank Sinatra once said that Rawls had “the classiest singing and silkiest chops in the singing game”. Rawls released more than 60 albums, sold more than 40 million records, and had numerous charting singles, most notably his song “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine”.
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 moved to Los Angeles, where he subsequently joined the Pilgrim Travelers.
Rawls’ life was profoundly changed in 1958 when he was involved in a car accident while touring with the Pilgrim Travelers.
Riding with Cooke and his driver, Rawls suffered a severe concussion and nearly died.
He remained in a coma for several days.
When he awoke and spent the next year recovering, Rawls had a new perspective on life.
By 1959, the Pilgrim Travelers had broken up and Rawls was working on a solo career.
Moving away from gospel and into more secular forms of music, he recorded a few solo singles for the small Candix Label.
A performance at a West Hollywood coffee shop caught by producer Nick Venet led to a deal with Capitol Records.
His first album, I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water was released in 1962 and featured standards in the jazz and blues genres.
Rawls then recorded two soul records, Tobacco Road and Lou Rawls Soulin ‘.
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”).
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” as mentioned before, 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.
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.”
He died in Los Angeles, California, on January 6, 2006, at the age of 72.
Rawls is survived by his third wife, Nina Malek Inman; his sons, Lou Jr. and Aiden; his daughters, Louanna and Kendra; and four grandchildren.