A Patron of Black Education Will be Laid to Rest

Friends and entertainers will pay respects today to singer Lou Rawls for his tremendous success in the music industry and his contributions to the United Negro Fund.

The funeral for singer Lou Rawls will be held today (Jan. 13)  at the West Angeles Church of God in Christ in LA, with the Rev. Jesse Jackson reading the last rites. There will be a private burial.

Rawls died last Friday (Jan.6) in LA last of lung and brain cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. He was 72.

Instead of flowers the family asked people to donate money to the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), of which Rawls was a huge advocate for over 25 years. He founded the Lou Rawls Parade of Stars Telethon which raised millions of dollars for African-American students attending HBCUs.His last performance and participation with the UNCF was in September and it aired last weekend on major networks.

Those expected to attend today’s funeral are Stevie Wonder, Della Reese, Joan Baez, Andrae Crouch and Etta James.

"I’ve known Lou for 40 years," said Rev. Jesse Jackson, President of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. "His voice was a gift from God. But more than anything else, Lou’s commitment to black colleges raised a quarter of a billion dollars to send our people to college. That alone is a special legacy.”

“What I really loved about Lou was how his voice was so unique," Kenny Gamble, who with his partner Leon Huff wrote "You’ll Never Find," told The Associated Press. "The other thing was that he had a sense of community. Thousands and thousands of young kids benefited from this celebrity."

Once described by Frank Sinatra as having the “classiest singing and silkiest chops in the singing game,” Rawls’ music varied from gospel, soul and standard. Widely acclaimed for his profound baritone and hits such as “Natural Man,” “Lady Love,” and “You’ll Never Find a Love Like Mine,” which topped the R&B charts and hit No. 2 on the pop charts, Rawls also appeared in 18 movies, including “Leaving Las Vegas” and “Blues Brothers 2000.”

“I’ve gone the full spectrum, from gospel to blues to jazz to soul to pop," Rawls once said on his Web site, according to CNN. "And the public has accepted what I’ve done through it all." Rawls was raised by his grandmother on Chicago’s south side and began singing in a church choir at the age of 7.

After years of singing with gospel groups, Rawls decided to try his hand at secular music and recorded songs with childhood friend Sam Cooke. He sang backup on Cooke’s, “Bring It On Home To Me.” He was signed to capital records and recorded his first album, “Stormy Monday,” in 1962.

Although he quit smoking 35 years ago, Rawls was diagnosed with lung cancer in December 2004 and brain cancer in May 2005.

"Lou Rawls was one of the music world’s most versatile vocalists," said Recording Academy President Neil Portnow in a statement from the organization, which gives out the annual Grammy awards.

"His deep, smooth, soulful style exemplified his classy elegance and made him one of the most recognizable voices anywhere. And his philanthropic efforts on behalf of many charitable causes further displayed his passion and commitment to helping others through music. We have lost a true musical pioneer, but his legacy will continue to inspire us all," he said.

Rawls is survived by his wife Nina and four children, Louanna Rawls, Lou Rawls Jr., Kendra Smith and Aiden Rawls.