By the second half of 1966, the smoothy soulful Chicago stylist Lou Rawls was five years into his contract with Capitol Records, and seriously in need of a hit single.
The former member of gospel group the Pilgrim Travelers had recently managed a couple of weeks in the Top 40 of the R&B chart with a version of “The Shadow Of Your Smile.” But his Capitol years had yielded precisely one week on the Hot 100, with “Three O’Clock In The Morning” the year before, and three on the Billboard LP listing, with 1963’s Black and Blue. There were murmurs that the label may have been thinking of dropping him.
But then Rawls’ career turned dramatically in the right direction. His reputation as an on-stage entertainer brought the release of Lou Rawls Live!, which became a sensational hit, topping the R&B chart and reaching a No.4 pop album peak, with 74 weeks on the bestsellers and gold certification. Then, to make life even better, came a bona fide hit 45.
The song in question was the plaintive mid-tempo “Love Is A Hurtin’ Thing,” written by Dave Linden and Ben Raleigh. It was a perfect fit for Rawls’ resonant baritone, especially with the production, at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles, of the esteemed David Axelrod. The session featured such studio A-listers as Barney Kessel on guitar and Earl Palmer on drums.
Lou unseats the Four Tops
On Billboard’s Top Selling R&B Singles chart of 12 November 1966, Rawls’ single completed its climb to No. 1, unseating the Four Tops’ “Reach Out I’ll Be There,” no less. It also reached No.13 on the Hot 100, and suddenly, the singer was set fair. Soulin’, the album containing “Hurtin’ Thing,” also went gold, as the song attracted covers by Big Maybelle, J.J. Jackson and in a duet version by Chuck Jackson and Maxine Brown. In 1969, the Temptations’rendition was on their Cloud Nine album.
Meanwhile, Rawls moved into the top division of vocal talent, newly able to command $5,000 a concert and with many more hit singles and albums to come — both at Capitol, where he stayed for the rest of the decade, and later with particularly happy stays at both Philadelphia International and Blue Note.
“Love Is A Hurtin’ Thing” is on the compilation Brotherman! Lou Rawls Sings The Hits, which can be bought here.
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