Laws is the fifth of eight children born to Hubert Laws, Sr. and Miola Luverta Donahue.
Laws attended Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, for two years. In 1972, Laws joined the fledgling group Earth, Wind & Fire, playing saxophone and flute on their album Last Days and Time. He left the band soon afterwards, long before they achieved their commercial success.
In 1975, he began his solo career with the album Pressure Sensitive, which yielded his most famous instrumental song, “Always There.” The song became an instant jazz-funk classic, covered by numerous artists.
In 1978 he released the album titled Flame under United Artists Records and from it a 12″ single was released called “All for You,” as well as additional tracks (from previous albums) entitled “Let’s Keep it Together” and “Nuthin’ ’bout Nuthin.” The 12″ single was his first issued in the UK as well as the US, and paved the way for this format to be used for promoting artists’ work at the time without the need to obtain the full LP.
Apart from playing saxophone, Laws also sings. Notable vocals include “Every Generation” (1980), “Stay Awake” (1981, included on the album Solid Ground) and “Mr. Nice Guy” (1982).
Laws has also recorded with numerous other artists, including Arthur Adams, Howard Hewett, Brian Culbertson, Ramsey Lewis, Jeff Lorber, Hugh Masekela, Alphonse Mouzon, David Sea, and Sister Sledge.
A tribute to Ronnie Laws’ aforementioned hit, “Always There,” was performed in 1999 by a group of musicians including Boney James, Rick Braun, Kirk Whalum, Kenny Garrett and Larry Carlton at the Montreux Jazz Festival. The performance can be seen on the Casino Lights ’99’ DVD.
In June 2005, Laws’ 1980 LP Every Generation was issued on CD format for the first time. The original tracks are “Young Child,” “Never Get Back to Houston,” “Every Generation,” “Tomorrow,” “O.T.B.A.,” “Love’s Victory,” “Thoughts and Memories” and “As One.”
Whilst never gaining the popularity in the UK that he has in the US, his music continues to be played by jazz funk and soul stations. Many have argued that Laws has been underrated as a musician in the UK but the die hard fans continue to recognise his ability to play the saxophone, employing the instrument to its full potential.