A longtime community activist, Rawls played a major role in United Negro College Fund telethons that raised more than $200 million. He often visited and performed at black colleges. “He’s just someone who recognized, like many African-Americans of a certain generation, that education was something that our kids didn’t get access to and that it was critically important for their future, and for our communities’ future and for the nation,” said Dr. Michael Lomax, president and CEO of the UNCF. In September, Rawls performed in the organization’s “An Evening of Stars,” which was to be televised nationwide through the weekend. “He appeared frail, but he was in good voice, and he was in great spirit,” Lomax said. “He was there with his son, newly adopted, and his wife. He was a happy and contented man.” Aretha Franklin said Rawls was a “memorable musical stylist … who made a serious impact in the interest of historically black colleges and black folks.” Lou Rawls, who earned fame with his glorious voice and respect through his prodigious fundraising for the United Negro College Fund, died Friday of cancer. Rawls began as a gospel singer and spent nearly five decades working his soulful, velvet-voiced magic on classic tunes including “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine” and “Lady Love.” “His voice was so unique,” said legendary producer Kenny Gamble, who with Leon Huff wrote “You’ll Never Find.” “The other thing was that he had a sense of community. Thousands and thousands of young kids benefited from his celebrity.” With his wife, Nina, at his bedside, Rawls died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where he was hospitalized last month for treatment of lung and brain cancer, said his publicist, Paul Shefrin. Rawls’ family and Shefrin said the singer was 72, although other records indicate he was 70. Rawls’ trademark was his smooth, four-octave voice, which Frank Sinatra once called the “silkiest chops in the singing game.” Starting as a church choirboy, Rawls ultimately applied those silky tones to a variety of musical genres and more, including movies, TV shows and commercials. As a pitchman for Anheuser-Busch Cos. breweries, his was the familiar voice that said, “When you’ve said Budweiser, you’ve said it all.” Rawls was raised on the South Side of Chicago by his grandmother, who shared her love of gospel with him. He also was influenced by doo-wop and harmonized with his high school classmate Sam Cooke. The two friends were part of groups such as the Teenage Kings of Harmony. When he moved to Los Angeles in the 1950s, Rawls was recruited for the Chosen Gospel Singers, then moved on to The Pilgrim Travelers. He enlisted in 1955 as a paratrooper in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. Sgt. Rawls rejoined The Pilgrim Travelers three years later. While touring with the group, Rawls and Cooke were in a car crash that nearly ended Rawls’ life. Cooke was slightly hurt, but another passenger was killed and Rawls was declared dead on the way to the hospital, according to Shefrin. Rawls was in a coma for 5 days and suffered memory loss, but was completely recovered a year later. “I really got a new life out of that,” Rawls said at the time. “I saw a lot of reasons to live. I began to learn acceptance, direction, understanding and perception – all elements that had been sadly lacking in my life.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!