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Chicago Native Lou Rawls Dies, World Seems Less Soulful

By Chuck Sudo in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 6, 2006 6:54PM

2006_01_LouRawls.jpgThe voice that breathed velvet soul is now silent.

Smooth voiced Grammy-winning singer and Chicago native Lou Rawls passed away this morning after being hospitalized in Los Angeles for treatment of lung and brain cancer.

Mr. Rawls was introduced to music by his grandmother and the gospel strains of church. He started singing professionally in the mid-'50's with the L.A.-based gospel group the Pilgrim Travelers, whose contemporaries the Soul Stirrers featured at that time the lead vocals of Mr. Rawls' childhood friend Sam Cooke. He honed his style for years on in the L.A. R&B club circuit before signing a record deal with Capitol Records in 1962.

Mr. Rawls' debut album recorded with the Les McCann Trio, "Stormy Monday", started a sting of unforgettable hits ("Soulin'", "Natural Man", "Nobody But Me", "Lady Love") before Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, the architects of the "Philadelphia Soul" sound, helped Mr. Rawls chart his most popular song, "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine", in 1976.

Mr. Rawls was a lifelong community activist, hosting the United Negro College Fund's "Evening of Stars" telethons in the 1980's and '90's, raising $200 million for scholarships. His influence was also instrumental in the construction of what is now the Harold Washington Cultural Center in Bronzeville. Before having a falling out with Alderman Dorothy Tillman it was originally suposed to be the Lou Rawls Cultural Center as an honoring of his Bronzeville roots.

When Mr. Rawls was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles last month for cancer treatment he remained optimistic that he would beat the odds against him but it was not to be. Still, it’s clear that growing up on the South Side of Chicago made Lou Rawls so tough that it took two types of cancer to kill him. Godspeed.

Much thanks to Scott Smith for his input to this post.