Jerry Lawson, longtime leader of The Persuasions, died in Phoenix this week.
Lawson died in hospice care on July 10 at age 75, according to the Associated Press.
His career with the famed a cappella group, founded during the early '60s in Brooklyn, New York, spanned four decades. They stumbled onto a cappella fame, according to stories Lawson shared with Phoenix New Times in 2015.
Turns out, their guitar player never showed up in the early days. So, they just sang a cappella, and never looked back.
Frank Zappa signed The Persuasions to his independent record label in 1969, which launched them into the limelight. The group opened for some of that era’s best-known musicians, including B.B. King and Joni Mitchell.
Lawson left the group and moved to Arizona in 2003, where he started a Persuasions cover band in 2004. He recorded 24 albums with The Persuasions and two with the Talk of the Town cover group. He released a solo album in 2015.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Phoenix New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Phoenix's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Lawson also spent time managing a Phoenix home for adults living with developmental disabilities.
Former Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton recognized Lawson’s contributions to Phoenix arts and culture in 2016. That's when Lawson received a Mayor’s Arts Award during a ceremony held at Hance Park.
Joseph Benesh headed Phoenix Center for the Arts at the time, where he helped to spearhead those awards. Now, he’s executive director for Arizona Citizens for the Arts. He remembers Lawson fondly.
“Super nice guy,” Benesh says of Lawson. “One of the Phoenix hidden gems.”