Jerry Lawson, Leader of a Cappella Persuasions, Dies at 75 - NBC10 Boston

Jerry Lawson, Leader of a Cappella Persuasions, Dies at 75

The Persuasions had many famous fans including Rod Stewart, the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia, the members of Boyz II Men and Frank Zappa

Find NBC Boston in your area

Channel 10 on most providers

Channel 15, 60 and 8 Over the Air

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    Jerry Lawson, Leader of a Cappella Persuasions, Dies at 75
    Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File
    In this Oct. 8, 2017, file photo, singer Jerry Lawson performs the song "Lay Down" at a life celebration and statue unveiling for the late actor Anton Yelchin at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles. Lawson, for four decades the lead singer of cult favorite acapella group the Persuasions, has died.

    Jerry Lawson, who for four decades was the lead singer of the eclectic cult-favorite a cappella group the Persuasions, has died. He was 75.

    Lawson died Wednesday at a Phoenix hospice after a long illness, longtime friend and sometime Persuasions producer Rip Rense said.

    Lawson's smooth baritone led the group of five and later six singers, who were revered as the "The Kings of a Cappella" by their small but devoted fan base.

    Through 25 albums the Persuasions recorded rock, blues, gospel and pop songs, all with no sound other than their own voices, long after the doo-wop era and long before the "Pitch Perfect" movies, when a cappella was rare.

    J. Lo Concert in NYC Cut Short by Power Outage

    [NATL] J. Lo Concert in NYC Cut Short by Power Outage

    The Jennifer Lopez concert was cut short at Madison Square Garden due to the massive power outage in Manhattan. 

    (Published Monday, July 15, 2019)

    "Thirty-eight years and we still ain't got no band, man!" Lawson told The Associated Press in 2000. "That's the story right there."

    They had many famous fans including Rod Stewart, the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia, the members of Boyz II Men and Frank Zappa, who gave their career a boost when he discovered them in the late 1960s.

    "After working together at the Hurricane Katrina Benefit Concert, I admired the undeniable depth in Jerry's big voice," Stewart said in a statement. "A true soul singer."

    They began as a casual and nameless collection of singers on the basketball courts and front stoops of Brooklyn in 1962, with Lawson bringing the warm, friendly voice he developed singing gospel songs during his youth in Apopka, Florida.

    "It was just five guys who used to stand on the corner or go down to the subway station every night and just do this," Persuasions member Jimmy Hayes told the AP in 2000.

    Joseph Russell, Herbert Rhoad and Jayotis Washington rounded out the original quintet.

    No Power, No Worries: New York's Musicians Entertain During Blackout

    [NATL] No Power, No Worries: New York's Musicians Entertain During Blackout

    Check out some of the most talented actors and musicians in New York performing for crowds on the streets amid a blackout that knocked out power to thousands of customers in New York City on July 13, 2019. 

    (Published Saturday, July 13, 2019)

    They got their break when Zappa signed them to his independent label for their first album in 1969.

    The Persuasions performed with everyone from Liza Minnelli to Joni Mitchell to the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and covered the songs of Motown, Sam Cooke and Paul Simon.

    The eclecticism that made them so beloved also kept them from reaching pop stardom.

    Music executives never knew how to market them and commercial radio had no clue what niche to stick them in.

    "They've never gotten their due," Rense told the AP in 2000. "They're the greatest, most enduring American a cappella group. In another country like Japan they'd be declared a living treasure."

    Lawson left the group in 2002. A few years later he joined a much younger group of San Francisco acapella singers that had based themselves on the Persuasions to form "Jerry Lawson and the Talk of the Town."

    12-Year-Old Boy Makes Custom Bow Ties To Help Shelter Dogs

    [NATL-AH] 12-Year-Old Boy Makes Custom Bow Ties To Help Shelter Dogs

    At just 12-years-old, Darius Brown, is helping animals get adopted with cute little bow ties! The young man, who was diagnosed with developmental delays when he was 2, dished to Access Live how creating "Beaux & Paws" not only helped him grow, but also has benefited animals in need. Darius also dishes to Access about getting recognition from celebs, including Kim Kardashian and Barack Obama.

    (Published Monday, July 15, 2019)

    The group released an album, co-produced by Lawson and his wife, in 2007, and in 2011 they appeared on NBC's music competition show, "The Sing-Off."

    In 2015, he released his only solo album, "Just a Mortal Man."

    A documentary on Lawson is in the works and is expected to be released later this year.

    He is survived by wife Julie Lawson and daughters Yvette and Wanda Dawson.

    At his request, no funeral will be held, his family said in a statement.

    Associated Press Writer John Rogers contributed to this story.