LOU RAWLS 12/1/33 – 1/6/06

I was aware of the impact that Lou Rawls had on his own generation, Frank Sinatra in particular, I never felt a personal connection with his music until, “Love is a Hurtin’ Thing” [Raleigh/Lindley]. To understand why this was a pivotal point, not only in his career, but to the evolution of pop music in general, we have to examine the times during which the music was created.

It came in the middle of the Civil Rights movement, when “Negroes” were “allowed” to voice a political opinion in music…a time when complacency, turned into, “Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud!. Lou Rawls, obviously wanted to express himself too, but was restrained by his label, Capitol records, who still referred their R and B recordings as “race records”.

Capitol A+ R men made it clear to me, as a songwriter/publisher they were only looking for material that was entertaining, not a song that made a political statement of any kind.

Lou, obviously, jumped at a chance to combine his streetwise eloquence with a song Ben Raleigh and David Linden brought to him, “Love is a Hurtin’ Thing”. Lou’s talking at the beginning of the record was as revolutionary, from a personal and emotional standpoint,
as any music connected with the Civil Rights movement. He even got R and B radio play…a rarity for Capitol records during this time.

For the next few years, he was the only one making records like these that were successful. Then a couple of artists came along a few years later, and added longer talking
segments, liberally sprinkled with sexual references…and a “New” genre was born, with it’s new stars, Isaac Hayes and Barry White.

It was when he signed with Philadelphia International, that he actually sold the most albums, I believe. Gamble and Huff were looking for artists who could be successfully
marketed by their distribution company, Columbia records, and Lou fit the Bill perfectly. He not only was one of the best interpreters of Gamble and Huff’s songs, he had a history of being able to sell albums.

It was around this time that I met Lou. Margo Matthews, who was Ed Silvers secretary at Warner Brothers music, had been his personal assistant for years…and he dropped by to see her one day. As I walked by her office, she called me in, and introduced us. I sat talking with him for a few minutes…and felt like I was reconnecting with an old friend. I
left a few minutes later, to let them talk, but I felt special all day long…not to mention every time I heard one of his recordings from that day on.”

From my forthcoming book, “I Did It For A Song”
Copyright 2009 by Artie Wayne