Singer and actor Lou Rawls died early Friday morning (January 6) at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, according to his publicist. The 72-year-old singer had lung cancer.
The Chicago native, considered one soul music’s classic voices, had a smooth baritone that won over R&B, jazz, gospel and pop audiences. Rawls first shot to fame in the 1960s and released a string of acclaimed albums through the ’60s and 1970s, including 1976’s All Things in Time, which featured his enduring hit “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine.”
Rawls nearly lost his life early on in his pursuit of a music career. In 1958, the singer was traveling with friend and former high school classmate, the legendary Sam Cooke, when they were involved in a car accident. While Cooke escaped virtually unscathed, Rawls was pronounced dead while being rushed to the hospital. He slipped into a coma for almost a week, suffered memory loss and didn’t get back on track for almost a year.
In the early 1960s, Rawls started recording jazz records and even incorporated some raps into his live performances. By the end of the decade he was recording soul music and earned his first of three Grammys. Rubbing shoulders with heavyweights such as Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin (Rawls co-hosted Martin’s “Golddiggers” variety show), Rawls emerged as a major star in the 1970s. He achieved his greatest success signed to Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff’s trailblazing Philadelphia International Records.
In 1980, Rawls showed his humanitarian side by starting the “Lou Rawls Parade of Stars,” a telethon that continues to raise money for the United Negro College Fund. Artists from Ashanti to Stevie Wonder have appeared on the show through the years, raising hundreds of millions dollars for the cause.
Rawls was also an actor, most notably appearing in the films “Leaving Las Vegas” and “Blues Brothers 2000.” He guest starred on “Martin,” “My Wife and Kids” and “Baywatch,” and had a recurring role on “Baywatch Nights.” Rawls’ unforgettable voice proved to be sought after in acting as well in music, appealing to a new generation with voiceovers for cartoons including “The Proud Family,” “Hey Arnold!,” “Captain Planet and the Planeteers” and “Rugrats.”
Rawls, who waged a lengthy battle with cancer, reached out to fans through the press last month, asking them not to count him out.
According to Rawls’ spokesperson, funeral arrangements are still pending.
[This story was originally published on 01.06.06 at 11:34 a.m. ET.]