Rawls was a hugely successful singer, primarily from the 1950's through the 1980's.
Rawls was a high school classmate of music giant Sam Cooke, and they sang together in the Teenage Kings of Harmony, a 50s gospel group.
After Rawls graduated from Chicago's Dunbar Vocational Career Academy, Rawls enlisted in the U.S. Army as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division. He left the "All-Americans" three years later as a Sergeant, and hooked up with The Pilgrim Travelers. In 1958, while touring the South with the Travelers and Sam Cooke, Rawls was in a serious car crash. Rawls was actually pronounced dead before arriving at the hospital, where he stayed in a coma for five and a half days. It took him months to regain his memory, and a year to fully recuperate. Rawls considered the event to be life-changing.
In 1959, Rawls, along with Dick Clark as master of ceremonies, performed at the Hollywood Bowl. Rawls was signed to Capitol Records in 1962, the same year he sang the soulful background vocals on the Sam Cooke recording of "Bring it on Home to Me."