Friday, January 06, 2006

The “Silkiest Chops in the Singing Game”

[[M U S I C]] * Our world is just a wee bit poorer today after the loss of Grammy Award-winning crooner Lou Rawls, who died at a Los Angeles hospital following treatment for lung and brain cancer. The Chicago-born singer and United Negro College Fund supporter started out as a church choir boy, wrapping what would become his velvet-toned voice around gospel lyrics, but eventually turned to soul music, jazz, and blues. Frank Sinatra once remarked that Rawls had “the classiest singing and silkiest chops in the singing game.” Singer/composer Burt Bacharach adds, “He was one of the few singers that you knew without hearing more than a few notes, that it was him.”

During his half-century-long career, Rawls turned out more than 50 albums, the first of those being Stormy Monday, which he recorded in 1962 with the renowned Les McCann Trio. As a vocalist, he was probably best recognized for his rendition of “You’ll Never Find,” originally released in 1976 and capturing “the best of his voice,” according to producer Kenny Gamble, who with Leon Huff wrote that song. “It had all the dimensions, it had the low and it had the excitement. And plus the lyrics were something people could relate to.” On top of his recording career, Rawls was featured in a variety of movies (Leaving Las Vegas, Blues Brothers 2000), TV shows (Baywatch Nights, The Fall Guy, and several cartoon series), and commercials. (He once put in time as a pitchman for Anheuser-Busch, telling viewers that “When you’ve said Budweiser, you’ve said it all.”)

Curiously, sources seem to disagree about exactly how old Lou Rawls was at the time of his demise. Some say he was 70, others that he was 72. Either way, we’ll never find another one like him.

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