Singer Lou Rawls may have achieved international fame with his music, but his family troubles only got worse with time. His third wife and daughter from his first marriage were sworn enemies and threatened to disrupt the peace at the singer's funeral.
Lou Rawls carried the title of the velvet-voiced singer, but reaching the top was not always easy. Born of a minister, Rawls grew up on gospel music and later became the lead singer for the gospel group Pilgrim Travelers.
At the beginning of his career, he performed for $10 a night, singing in a beatnik coffee house on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood, and having dinner with his wife Lana meant splitting a hotdog.
Singer Lou Rawls, his wife Nina Malek Inman and baby Aiden Allen Rawls on February 3, 2005 in Miami, Florida [Left] Rawls holds his daughter Louanna as his wife Lana and son Lou Jr. stand with him at the Century Plaza Hotel los Angeles California in 1973. [Right] | Source: Getty Images
He would soon become one of America's most revered blues and jazz superstars, and as much as the world loved him, his four children from his marriages loved him more. He was father to daughters Louanna and Kendra and sons Lou Jr. and Aiden Allen, who he had at 69.
Years after his demise, his children and grandchildren remember him for the great man and father he was and often commemorate his big days with beautiful tributes.
For his birthday in 2013, his daughter Kendra posted a photo of a smiling Rawls accompanied by an emotional caption reading:
"Happy Birthday, Dad. Gone but not forgotten. R.I.P."
His grandchildren also remember him fondly, and on June 20, 2021, one of his grandchildren posted a photo of Rawls's star of fame, saying they missed and appreciated him.
A WORLD-RENOWNED SINGER WHOSE MARRIAGES FAILED TERRIBLY
The "Lady Love" singer rose in his career to become one of America's most celebrated singers and bagged awards while at it, but he was also a family man. The star was married thrice, with two of his unions ending in divorce.
Rawls met his first wife, Lana, in Houston, Texas. He'd been performing at the Sidewalk Cafe while she modeled in the city. Soon after they met, they became romantically involved.
Upon his return to California, she followed him, and the pair got married three years later, on February 2, 1963. After they got married, Lana worked as a secretary to supplement their income as Rawls performed at various Los Angeles clubs for $10 a night, sometimes less.
Their marriage lasted only a decade before Lana filed for divorce. However, in those ten years, the couple became parents to three children — Louanna Rawls, Kendra Rawls, and Lou Rawls Jr.
After his divorce from Lana, Rawls married his second wife, Cece Rawls, in 1989. And while they did not have any children together, they also divorced, finally going their separate ways in 2003.
Luckily for the blues and jazz singer, love was just around the corner. He met Nina Malek Inman, who'd been working as a flight attendant for Continental Airlines.
Lou Rawls and Nina in Hollywood, California on September 3, 2003. | Source: Getty Images
They immediately hit it off and dated for two years before tying the knot on New Year's Day in 2004 at Memphis, after Rawls performed at the Liberty Bowl and the Peabody Hotel.
At first, their marriage was blissful, and nine days after celebrating their first anniversary, they welcomed their son Aiden Allen Rawls. Rawls was elated and considered the birth of his son a belated 69th birthday present.
Lou Rawls (1933-2006) performs at the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Hague, the Netherlands on July 14, 1989. | Source: Getty Images
Things began to take a turn for the worst when, in 2003, Rawls was charged with battery after Nina told officials that she and Rawls had been having a conversation when it got heated and escalated into a shoving match. The judge dropped the charges for lack of evidence, after which Rawls would say:
"Nina and I are very much in love, we have established a new home together, and we look forward to spending the rest of our lives together."
More trouble followed when, unfortunately, the singer was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2004, and a year later, he got another diagnosis — he had lung cancer. During his diagnosis, his marriage was on the verge of annulment.
A portrait of Lou Rawls posing in a black blazer and a bolo tie around his collar. | Source: Getty Images
The singer attempted to annul his marriage, and in the court papers, Rawls claimed his wife had married him for his assets, not for love.
The singer said he was trying to annul his two-year union to protect the thousands of dollars worth of assets, part of which Nina had transferred into her private account, claiming that Rawls's daughter wanted to seize them.
RAWLS GETS SUED BY ALLEGED MISTRESS
Singer Lou Rawls performs at the inaugural event for the Lou Rawls Center For The Performing Arts located at Florida Memorial College on February 3, 2005 in Miami, Florida. | Source: Getty Images
Rawls's three failed marriages were only the tip of the iceberg. More trouble awaited him, and it came in the form of a woman named Margaret Schaffer. In 2003, Schaffer came forward claiming that she had been Rawls's mistress.
In the lawsuit, Schaffer claimed that she had met the singer in 1998 at a Valentine's Day concert in Washington. After a courtship, Rawls allegedly admitted that he was married but still asked Schaffer to quit her job and move into his Southern California home.
They agreed that Rawls would compensate her for what she would have earned at her fruit brokerage job and promised her lifetime support, even if their relationship did not work out.
American singer Lou Rawls performing on stage, circa 1994. | Source: Getty Images
Schaffer claimed that Rawls backed out of the verbal agreement after ending their relationship. He allegedly asked her never to contact him again and "forget him completely." She sued Rawls for $12 million in compensatory damages and punitive damages.
Rawls' manager, David Brokaw, dismissed the lawsuit as frivolous, claiming that while the singer was acquainted with Schaffer, he did not date her and that the case had "no merit" as Rawls had never moved out of his Los Angeles home, which he shared with his wife. He added:
"He never moved out of that home to live with Mrs. Schaffer."
NINA FILED A POLICE REPORT AGAINST LOUANNA AHEAD OF RAWL'S FUNERAL
Lou Rawls during Lou Rawls Center for the Performing Arts Opens at Florida Memorial College at Florida Memorial College in Miami, Florida on October 29, 2004. | Source: Getty Images
2006 was a sad year for all blues and jazz fans as Rawls succumbed to his illnesses and lost his life on the morning of January 6. Hundreds of mourners, including Kenny Gamble, David Hasselhoff, Angela Bassett, and Lou Gossett Jr., attended the two-and-a-half-hour church funeral.
The ceremony, held at West Angeles Church on South Crenshaw Boulevard in Los Angeles, was full of affection and memories of Rawls.
Lou Rawls during 3rd Annual "Feast of San Gennaro L.A." Gala, "Prima Notte" at Grove Drive in Los Angeles on September 23, 2004. | Source: Getty Images
Peace activist Joan Baez, actress Della Reese, and pastor Andre Crouch had the crowd on its feet and singing along to "Amazing Grace," while Stevie Wonder paid tribute to Rawls,saying
"We're going to miss his love because it was real. It's pure. We got you, Lou. We got you forever and always."
Everyone in attendance had beautiful memories and stories about Rawls. Reverend Jesse Jackson eulogized the singer as "authentic, an original, a source of light in dark places."
Lou Rawls, and wife Nina Rawls during Lou Rawls Center for the Performing Arts Opens at Florida Memorial College at Florida Memorial College in Miami, Florida, United States. | Source: Getty Images
Dr. Michael Lomax referred to Rawls as a "pioneer," while his granddaughter Katrina Smith recalled how Rawls spoiled her and her sister Chayil.
However, despite the emotional celebration of life, something sinister threatened to disrupt the peace — the long-simmering feud between Rawls's daughter Louanna and his wife, Nina.
A month earlier, Nina had left Louanna a message on her answering machine, spewing hatred for Louanna and threatening to destroy Rawls financially. She had also filed a police complaint against Louanna.
She claimed that Louanna had taken all of her father's jewelry, including his platinum and gold albums. Among the jewelry was her father's ring, which Nina wanted back so the singer could be buried wearing it. A friend of Louanna disputed the claims.
To muddy the waters further, Louanna and Rawls's friends claimed that Rawls had instructed that he'd wanted to be cremated upon his death, but Nina claimed it was according to his will to be buried.