Lou Rawls’ role on “Mannix” reminds audience of his versatility

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“Mannix” is a police procedural that aired from 1968 to 1975. in its eight seasons, the show followed the cases of an experienced private investigator. Depending on where audiences are from, or maybe when they were born, “Mannix” might not generate interest more than 40 years after it last aired. However, recently an episode aired from 1972. In it, a guitar-playing Lou Rawls opened the drama. The song had elements of blues and rock ‘n’ roll. The surprise was not that a famous person was playing himself on a television show. The surprise was that Rawls was strumming a guitar. The singer, who died in 2006, is known for a number of hits throughout the 1960s through the 1970s. His deep voice serves as Rawls’ trademark. With the passage of time, it is easy for people of certain generations to forget what Rawls offered music. His guitar-playing television appearance reminded, or informed audiences for the first time, of the complexity that Rawls embodied.

Lou Rawls: A legend in Gospel and soul and more

From most accounts Rawls’ path to a professional singing career began with his singing Gospel music. It was through singing Gospel at a Baptist church on the southside of Chicago that Rawls would meet two men who would in turn have their own musical legacies: Curtis Mayfield and Sam Cooke. Cooke and Rawls would sing together in formal groups in the mid to late 1960s. Later, in 1970, Rawls would record an album of Cooke’s work in tribute to the late singer.

By 1962, Rawls’s recording career had begun. A series of albums throughout the 1960s and 1970s shows Rawls as a singer unwilling to pigeonhole himself. In addition to his own stirring singles, namely “You’ll Never Find,” Rawls seemed to embrace the work of different artists, like Frank Sinatra and Hall & Oates, and recorded tribute versions of the songs of theirs that he liked most. A notable cover version is Rawls’ version of “She’s Gone” by Hall & Oates.

Lou Rawls: on big and small screens, and philanthropy

It didn’t take long for others in the entertainment industry to notice the richness of Rawls’ voice, and perhaps what seemed to be his affable personality. As a result, he was featured in televised Westerns, such as “The Big Valley.” He also appeared on “Sesame Street” and “The Muppet Show.” In addition, Rawls voiced characters in “Hey Arnold!” “Garfield” and others.

As a cultural icon because of his incredibly smooth voice, Rawls sang the national anthem at various sporting events from 1977 until 2005, a year before his death.

In 1980, Rawls started the Lou Rawls Parade of Stars to raise money for the United Negro College Fund. Although the name of the event changed in 1998, Rawls’ association with it and pioneering of it, forges his legacy as a complex entertainer who did more than sing, but who also cared about non-profit causes.

Given the totality of recordings, events, causes and projects that Rawls was involved with, his having appeared on an almost obscure television show is not surprising at all. However, his appearance on “Mannix” does remind viewers that there were aspects of Rawls that the listening and viewing public might have forgotten.

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