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Lou Rawls Biography (1935 – 2006)

Born on Chicago’s infamous South Side in 1935, Lou Rawls began singing at his grandmother’s church. By his teenage years, Rawls was expanding his musical tastes with frequent trips to see jazz singers perform at the Regal Theater. As a teenager, he joined the gospel group The Teenage Kings of Harmony along with Sam Cooke. Rawls moved to Los Angeles and enjoyed stints with gospel groups The Chosen Few and The Pilgrim Travelers, before deciding in 1955 to enlist in the Army as a paratrooper. Three years later, Sergeant Rawls left the Army and resumed singing with The Pilgrim Travelers.

While touring with the group, Rawls was in a car accident that left him in a coma for five days. Nearly a year later he recovered, but not without suffering from severe memory loss. The end of the fifties brought happier times for Rawls who, in 1960, signed a recording contract with Capitol Records. His debut, Stormy Monday, received critical acclaim, resonated with young urban audiences, and became the first of twenty albums Rawls would release in that decade alone.
In 1966, Rawls released his Live album, featuring the hit song "Tobacco Road". He filled the album with long rhythmic rants, laced with social commentary that became a trademark of Rawls and a preamble to today’s Rap music.
With the emergence of Disco in the early 1970s, Rawls began to lose popularity. In 1975, Rawls signed with Philadelphia International Records, where he resurrected his career with a series of hits including "You’ll Never Find (Another Love Like Mine)."
Before Rawls died in 2006, he spent considerable time putting his celebrity status to good use, raising money for the United Negro College Fund and other charities. A remarkable talent by all accounts, Lou Rawls left behind a poignant legacy, allowing his fans to remember the spectacular voice and giving personality that Frank Sinatra praised for possessing “the classiest singing and silkiest chops in the singing game.”
Duke Ellington Biography

Duke Ellington was born on April 29, 1899 in Washington D.C. and although his principal instrument was considered the piano, Duke considered himself a composer and band leader as opposed to only an instrumentalist. He began to take piano lessons, but didn’t take it seriously until his teenage years, preferring to play open-lot baseball as a child. However, the playing of James P Johnson (as well as the piano’s ability to help attract girls) helped Duke reconnect with music. At 14, Ellington wrote his first composition, “Soda Fountain Rag,” and by the early 1920s he had formed his own band, The Washingtonians, who moved to NYC in 1923.

Ellington began to receive national notoriety when his group became the house band at Harlem’s Cotton Club. The national radio broadcast not only began to make Ellington a celebrity, but also gave him the financial flexibility to turn his band into an orchestra for whom he could specifically compose his music.

After being featured on the cover of Time Magazine, Duke started touring internationally and in the 1960s the State Department began sponsoring diplomatic tours for the orchestra. These travels clearly effected Duke’s compositions, most notably on 1964’s "Far East Suite".

Throughout his lifetime, Duke received numerous awards, including a Congressional Medal of Freedom, the highest honor bestowed upon civilians. Duke Ellington died in 1974 in New York City.   
In passing Duke left behind an undeniably brilliant legacy filled with musical prowess, lasting influence and stunning compositions. His signature works are distinctly American, drawing influence from styles such as Ragtime, Tin Pan Alley and the Blues, but they also contain the complexities of classical music. Legendary works such as "Mood Indigo", "In A Sentimental Mood", and "Satin Doll" exemplify the romantic tones and simplicity of expression that came to exemplify Ellington’s work, but also encompass the consistency of his genius.

Although Ellington’s style helped redefine the various genres that influenced his work, he maintained a level of emotion that helped engage the public and brought voice to the social injustices of the era through his everlasting compositions.