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Lou Rawls

By RD Heldenfels Published: January 6, 2006

I won't pretend Lou Rawls should be thought of as a TV guy, although he was a familiar presence through his telethons and his voicing beer commercials.

But I have to note his passing because he was such a good singer in his heyday, although my sense of his heyday may be different from yours.

I wasn't really a fan of his ''You'll Never Find'' period. But I'm still fond of my old vinyl copy of ''Stormy Monday,'' where Rawls sang some wonderful jazz blues accompanied by pianist Les McCann's trio. I also have a live album from Rawls's Capitol Records days with a pretty good ''Tobacco Road.'' And Rawls made a memorable, much-played Christmas album for the label.

I first heard him, though, when ''Love Is a Hurtin' Thing'' hit in 1966. It's all right, and I don't mind hearing it from time to time, but it's not my favorite Rawls. I'm more fond of the jazzy stuff and the later ''Natural Man.''

And there's one big piece of beautiful, corny, bold work from the early '80s: his version of ''Wind Beneath My Wings,'' with the corn in the deep-voiced, spoken intro and the joy in his letting loose on the song itself. I have that record because I went to a Rawls concert around that time, and he was cool, masterful -- and especially good on that song. Better in concert than on record, in fact. But I'm glad to have those records, especially ''Stormy Monday.''

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