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Jerry Lawson (1944–2019), lead singer for the Persuasions

Getty Images / Michael Putland

The a cappella group influenced others including Boyz II Men and Take 6

Jerry Lawson was the lead singer of the a cappella group the Persuasions. Lawson and his bandmates revived the a cappella style as young men singing their favorite songs together in their neighborhood, applying the style to songs from diverse genres including R&B, pop, gospel, blues, and more. They continued singing together for decades, recording more than two dozen albums and influencing later groups including Boyz II Men and Take 6. Lawson later left the Persuasions and joined another group they had influenced, Talk of the Town. With Talk of the Town, Lawson appeared on NBC’s “The Sing-Off” in 2011. Lawson released his only solo album, “Just a Mortal Man,” in 2015.

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Died: July 10, 2019 (Who else died on July 10?)

Details of death: Died in Phoenix, Arizona of Guillain-Barre Syndrome at the age of 75.


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Famous fans: Though the Persuasions didn’t achieve major pop stardom, they had a broad base of fans worldwide, including some influential musicians. Frank Zappa released their first album on his label, and Joni Mitchell invited them to tour with her and sing on two tracks from her 1980 album “Shadows and Light.” Other artists with whom the Persuasions recorded include Stevie Wonder, Phoebe Snow, and the Neville Brothers.

Notable quote: “Thirty eight years and we still ain’t got no band, man! That’s the story right there.” —Lawson in a 2000 interview with the Associated Press

What people said about him: “RIP Jerry Lawson. Thanks for keeping #acappella alive in the dark times of the 70’s, and helping to lay the groundwork for the art as we know it today!” —Rob Dietz, vocal arranger for “The Sing-Off”

“RIP, the Persuasions’ Jerry Lawson – idol, mentor, friend.” —Sean Altman, founding member of Rockapella

Full obituary: New York Times

Birthdate: December 1, 1940 (Who else was born on December 1st?)