Saturday, January 07, 2006

Cancer takes life of 70-year-old legend


Singer Lou Rawls, known for his deep voice and smooth persona, died Friday at Los Angeles' Cedars-Sinai Medical Center the age of 72.
Rawls, a smoker who says he kicked the habit 35 years ago, had been hospitalized for the past month, suffering from lung and brain cancer. His wife, Nina, was at his bedside when he died.
Rawls' velvet voice was his trademark, best known for songs like 'You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine' and his work with charities such as the United Negro College Fund. He was introduced to gospel music by his grandmother in his hometown of Chicago and then moved to Los Angeles in the mid-50's to join the touring gospel group, the Pilgrim Travelers. He left to join the Army, but returned the group after a short two-year stint and found himself singing with Sam Cooke.
Rawls performed with Dick Clark at the Hollywood Bowl in 1959, and even opened for The Beatles in Cincinnati. A Capitol Records producer discovered Rawls as he was playing small blues and R&B clubs in Los Angeles. Rawls' four-octave range was especially intriguing, and the singer was signed to the label in 1962.
His debut effort, 'Stormy Monday' was the first of 28 albums Rawls made with Capitol. In 1966, his 'Love Is a Hurtin' Thing' topped the charts and earned Rawls his first two Grammy nominations. He won three Grammys in his career and released his most recent album, 'Seasons 4 U,' in 1998 on his own label, Rawls & Brokaw Records. Rawls' talents were not limited to music. He appeared in 18 movies, including 'Leaving Las Vegas' and 'Blues Brothers 2000,' and 16 television series, including 'Fantasy Island' and 'The Fall Guy.'
A longtime community activist, Rawls visited schools, playgrounds and community centers in the 1960s, encouraging school children to stay in school. In the '80s, he helped the United Negro College Fund raise more than $200 million through telethons. In 1976, Rawls became the corporate spokesman for the Anheuser-Busch Cos. breweries.
Rawls was diagnosed with lung cancer in December 2004 and brain cancer in May 2005. He recently said from his hospital bed "Don't count me out, brother. There's been many people who have been diagnosed with this kind of thing, and they're still jumpin' and pumpin'.
Besides his wife, Rawls is survived by four children: Louanna Rawls, Lou Rawls Jr., Kendra Smith and Aiden Rawls.

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