Appreciation


You'll never find another voice quite like Lou Rawls's. Whatever he sung, whether it was pop, gospel, blues or jazz, the velvet-voice was instantly recognizable. Rawls died Jan. 6 at the age of 72 in Los Angeles of brain and lung cancer.

Like many of his peers, Rawls started singing in church. His gospel roots prepared him for the rigors of life as an R&B singer in the 1960s. Rawls recorded more than 60 albums throughout his nearly five-decade career, winning three Grammy awards. The baritone, however, was best known for the 1976 mega-hit, "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine." That same year, Rawls was tapped as a spokesman for Anheuser-Busch.

But Rawls was more than a talented singer. In 1977, he became the spokesman for the United Negro College Fund, using his unique position to establish the Parade of Stars in 1979. The nationally televised annual telethon features the most popular Black entertainers and has helped raise more than $200 million for students at private historically Black colleges.

Wilson Pickett didn't just sing a song. He sang a song. His voice, as gritty as the cotton fields of his native Alabama, touched the souls of a generation. Pickett died of a heart attack at the age of 64, Jan. 19 in Reston, Va.

Like his counterpart Otis Redding, Pickett helped define "soul" music during the tumultuous '60s. His rambunctious, gospel-inspired delivery earned him the nickname, "Wicked Pickett" as he performed hits such as "In the Midnight Hour," "Mustang Sally" and "Land of 1,000 Dances." Pickett was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 and continued to tour and perform until 2004.

As half of the dancing duo, the Nicholas Brothers, Fayard Nicholas dazzled audiences with his skillful, acrobatic dance moves and inspired generations of dancers, including Gregory Hines and Savion Glover. He died Jan. 24 of pneumonia and complications from a stroke in Toluca Lake, Calif. He was 91.

Nicholas, along with his brother Harold, took dance to a whole new level during the 1930s and '40s. The Nicholas Brothers headlined at the famed Cotton Club and later tap-danced, back-flipped and split their way in to more than 30 movies.

Fayard Nicholas was the older of the two and choreographed most of their routines. One of their most renowned dance numbers was in the 1943 all-Black musical, Stormy Weather which featured Lena Home and legendary tap dancer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. In 1989, Nicholas won a Tony award for his choreography of the musical, Black and Blue. The brothers were honored by the Kennedy Center for their achievements in 1991. …

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