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Lou Rawls was a singer and songwriter known for his baritone voice and the small acting roles he took on the side.
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"There had to be a way to get the attention of the people. So instead of just starting in singing, I would just start in talking the song."
In 1967, Rawls received his first Grammy Award for "Dead End Street" for Best Male Rhythm & Blues Solo Vocal Performance. The track had a talking introduction and was from his hit album, That's Lou (1967), which really showcased Rawls's outstanding voice with all its rich and smooth qualities. That same year, he performed at the legendary musical event,
In the next decade, Rawls went on a roller coaster ride professionally. It started promisingly with him winning another Grammy Award. In 1971, Rawls changed record companies, leaving Capitol for MGM. His first album with MGM, A Natural Man, earned him a Grammy Award for the Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. The title song also fared well on both the pop and R&B charts and Rawls was named favorite male vocalist by Downbeat magazine, coming in ahead of Frank Sinatra. Even Sinatra spoke admiringly about Rawls's talents. But as the 1970s progressed, Rawls went through several years without a hit and ended up switching record companies again, moving from MGM to Philadelphia International.
His new label, run by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, was famous for its soulful Philly sound. The duo also wrote his biggest hit of all time, "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine." Appearing on the album All Things in Time, the single came out in 1976 and sold more than one million copies. The next album, Unmistakably Lou (1977), went gold and won a Grammy Award.
A huge success, Rawls was in demand for concerts and made appearances on such television shows as Dinah!, The Mike Douglas Show, The Muppet Show, and many others. He also became a spokesperson for the beer company, Anheuser Busch, around this time. The company became a sponsor of two of Rawls' charitable activities: a concert series for members of the armed forces and an annual telethon for United Negro College Fund (UNCF).
Originally known as the Lou Rawls Parade of Stars Telethon, the event has raised more than $200 million for black colleges. It started out in 1979 as a small event and went national the following year. Its name was later changed to An Evening with the Stars. "Lou was one of the earliest entertainers to understand the power of celebrity to do good," said UNCF president and CEO Dr. Michael Lomax to Jet magazine.
In the 1980s, Rawls branched out in acting. He appeared on several television shows, including The Fall Guy and Fantasy Island. Later on, Rawls had a recurring role on the syndicated series Baywatch Nights and made the most of small parts on the big screen, including Leaving Las Vegas (1995) and Blues Brothers 2000 (1998). His famous baritone voice also made him an ideal voice-over actor and he worked on such animated projects as The Rugrats Movie (1998). A born entertainer, Rawls also appeared on Broadway in the musical revue, Smokey Joe's Café, in 1999.
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