Lou Rawls was a Pioneer for R&B and Modern Superstars.
Often lost in the mix of great R&B vocalists, Lou Rawls was a trailblazer of modern American pop culture. Whether it was Rawls’s sultry voice, philanthropic endeavors, or tv appearances; he was a part of history from his birth in 1933 to his death in 2006.
If you know a Lou Rawls song – it’s likely his hit-single “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine.” This track debuted in 1976 and has left its mark on many relationships throughout the decade. You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine is by far Rawls’s biggest hit, it topped charts, is credited in dozens of tv shows and movies, and was released when Rawls was in his 40’s. It was the first and only time that Rawls’ reached Billboard’s pop Top Ten.
Lou is Bigger Than Billboard
Lou Rawls released more than 55 albums over the course of 48 years, including five Christmas albums. Some sources suggest that Lou Rawls has released more than 60 albums, which is truly an astonishing amount of production.
Before Rawls ever released a single album, he enlisted in the United States Army as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division. Rawls was awarded multiple honors for his service, but experienced a violent car crash, during which he was pronounced dead. After a five day coma, Rawls woke up and endured a year’s worth of rehabilitation through the end of the 1950’s.
After his heroic recovery, Rawls performed at the Hollywood Bowl in 1959 and began to release his first singles. By 1968, Rawls had won his first Grammy for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for his song “Dead End Street.” Dead End Street won a Grammy three years before Gil Scott Heron’s The Revolution Will Not Be Televised was released – but two songs have a ton in common. Both songs serve as critiques of society, both songs begin with a spoken word portion, and Heron and Rawls sound extremely similar.
Rawls would go on to win three Grammys for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance.
Lou Rawls Was a Tastemaker
Rawls was ahead of the curve as an entertainer and as an artist, the man was everywhere. According to Rolling Stone, “his calm yet charismatic demeanor and affable personality led to appearances in dozens of commercials for Budweiser beer, a breakthrough among African-American performers.” People just loved Lou Rawls.
Rawls appeared on the first season of Sesame Street, as well as the second season of the Muppets. Fast forward several decades and Lou Rawls was featured as a singing baby in Rugrats Movie, and on an episode of the Proud Family! Guion Bluford, the first black astronaut brought the Lou Rawls album When the Night Comes into space with him and Rawls was honored by the United Negro College Fund for 25+ years of charity work with the organization.
To the disinterested ear, the music of Lou Rawls sounds like a carbon copy of other R&B singers we are familiar with – but in reality Rawls was a trendsetter. Rawls worked to address social issues, he did charity work, got involved with TV and film, and made sure his art was multidimensional. Rawls would produce beautiful chart topping love songs, and produce an album about the plight experienced by African American. Between the albums Tobacco Road and It’s Supposed to Be Fun – 26 years pass, Rawls wins three Grammys, and you can literally hear the evolutions of Rawls’s emotions and artistry.
Lou Rawls has made more music than most recording artists throughout history. Producing more than 60 albums, before the advent of modern recording technology is a tremendous feat. His amazing voice allowed him to connect with multiple generations for over 50 years. His story is one of recovery, longevity, and consistency.
In 1977 Rawls performed the national anthem in before Muhammad Ali fought Earnie Shavers at Madison Square Garden, and his final performance before his death was the national anthem before the second game of the 2005 World Series in his hometown of Chicago. Today we give Lou Rawls his roses for a dynamic and amazing career, he set the template for modern super stars and helped create what we consider modern R&B.