Lou Rawls, who made a name for himself as a suave, "smooth-voiced" singer and later added both acting and charity work to his substantial resume, died today in Los Angeles. Rawls got his start in the gospel world, singing in church choirs from the age of seven and later following in the footsteps of his friend Sam Cooke by joining larger, touring gospel groups. After a stint in the Army, he made the switch to more secular music with a Capitol Records contract, and his popularity skyrocketed.
Though he is clearly best known as a singer, Rawls also had a surprisingly substantial movie career, appearing in more than a dozen films (though most of his roles were minor ones). Among his appearances were small parts in Leaving Las Vegas and Blues Brothers 2000, as well as voice-over work for a number of animated television shows and movies.