Lou Rawls

From gospel and early R&B to soul and jazz to blues and straight-up pop, Lou Rawls was a consummate master of African-American vocal music whose versatility helped him adapt to the changing musical times over and over again while always remaining unmistakably himself. Blessed with a four-octave vocal range, Rawls' smooth, classy elegance -- sort of a cross between Sam Cooke and Nat King Cole -- permeated nearly everything he sang, yet the fire of his early gospel days was never too far from the surface. He made his name as a crooner, first by singing jazz standards, then moving on to soul in the mid-'60s, and capped the most commercial phase of his career with a productive stint at Philadelphia International during the latter half of the '70s. Even after his days as a chart presence were over, Rawls remained a highly visible figure on the American cultural landscape, pursuing an acting and voice-over career in addition to his continued concert appearances, and doing extensive charity work on behalf of the United Negro College Fund.