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Lou Rawls one of the world's most prolific singers

Published:Friday | October 2, 2015 | 12:00 AM

In 1966 when Lou Rawls recorded Love is a Hurtin' Thing, he was on the verge of becoming one of the most philosophical singers that the world had ever known. That recording was perhaps the most vivid description in music, about man's perilous journey into the world of romanticism. Written by Ben Raleigh and Dave Linden and recorded at Capitol Records, it brought out the best in Rawls, as he sang:

'For every little kiss there's a little teardrop,

for every single thrill, there's another heartache.

The road is rough, the going gets tough

Yes love is a hurtin' thing, oh love is a hurtin' thing.

When you're in my arms I'm a King on a throne

but when we're apart, I walk the streets alone,

one day happiness, the next day loneliness

yes love is a hurtin' thing'.

And as Rawls moves into the bridge of the song, the tearjerking becomes even more palpable as he questions the Gods:

'When love brings so much joy, why must it bring such pain?

I guess it's a mystery that nobody can explain.

Maybe I'm a fool to keep on loving you

cause there may come a time, you'll break my heart in two.

But I want you so, I want you though

I know that love is a hurtin' thing'.

The recording was Rawls' first hit single, climbing to No. 1 on Billboard Hot R&B singles chart, and No. 13 on Billboard Hot 100.


nowhere around


What is amazing and mind-boggling is the fact that Rawls could easily have been nowhere around in 1966 to do that recording, as eight years earlier he was involved in a serious motor vehicle accident, which claimed the life of one passenger, while Rawls was pronounced dead by a doctor on the way to the hospital. Fortunately, he had slipped into a coma which lasted nearly six days, suffered memory loss for months, and wasn't fully recovered for a year. His best friend, high-school mate, and fellow gospel-group singer, Sam Cooke, who sang in duet with Rawls on the recording Bring it on home to Me, was also in the ill-fated vehicle, but escaped with minor injuries. Rawls admitted that the accident was life-changing as, "I really got a new life out of that. I saw a lot of reasons to live. I began to learn acceptance, direction, understanding and perception - all elements that had been sadly lacking in my life," he declared.

There can hardly be any doubt that the accident inspired Rawls in his choice of songs that followed. Philadelphia International, the mecca of producers/songwriters Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, was where Rawls chose to record the major portion of his works. Two years after signing with them in 1975, he was warning people that:

'You've only got one life to live

so live it in peace, live it in truth, live it in love.

Why don't you live each day like it's your last one

You take control of your emotions, all your doubts and fears

and just laugh at the world and all its sadness

and replace joy for those sad and bitter tears'.

The recording, titled One life to Live, was taken from Rawls 1977 album, When you hear Lou, you've heard it All, which sold respectably, peaking at No. 13 on the R&B album chart. Rawls' pedagogic musical inclinations continued throughout most of his recordings and was perhaps most prominently presented in his 1979 recording, What's the matter with the World. Rawls was spreading a universal message when he sang:

'What's the matter with the world, has the world gone mad.

Nothing's wrong with the world, It's the people that's in it.

You can depend on the sun, it rises everyday.

But you can't rely on the things people say'.


light of day


Rawls saw the light of day on December 1, 1933 in South Chicago. By age seven, he was immersed in gospel at his Baptist Church, thereafter joining his high-school classmate Sam Cooke in gospel groups around the country. They travelled together to Los Angeles in the mid-1950s to join the Pilgrim Travellers, before Rawls' career as a gospel singer was curtailed by that serious motor vehicle accident in 1958. When Rawls was able to recommence his career, he had virtually switched to the world of pop. Initially, he played at small R&B, pop and soul clubs in Los Angeles for small fees, until Capitol Records' A&R man, Nick Venet, discovered his

talent and invited him to submit an audition tape. His signing led to the release of his debut album, Stormy Monday, in 1962. Others like Tobacco Road, World of Trouble and Dead End Street, which won for him his first Grammy in 1967, helped to propel him into the spotlight. But it was his Grammy-nominated Love is a Hurtin' Thing, a year earlier, that brought Rawls to public attention. During this period, he also began his hip monologue (sometimes referred to as pre-rap), focusing on life and love.

Some nine years later, Rawls, buoyed by the success of his earlier efforts and his spirit of resilience after his miraculous escape from a car accident, chose to remind stubborn-minded lovers about the fate that could befall them, in the 1977 recording, Some Folks Never Learn. He continued:

'They keep on getting burn

time after time.

They just go in and out of love

always in the blind.

They only live for the body and they forget about the mind'.

Rawls' biggest hit was, however, his 1976 cut, You'll never find another love like Mine, in which he confides in himself as the ultimate lover:

'You'll never find, as long as you live

Someone who loves you

tender as I do.

You'll never find, no matter where you search

someone who cares about you the way I do.

I'm not bragging on myself baby

But I'm the one who loves you, and there's no one else'.

More than 50 albums, three Grammy awards, 13 Grammy nominations, a Platinum album, five gold albums and a gold single are enough to place Rawls at the highest echelon of musical stardom.