- Luther Vandross
Luther Vandross, 2003
Background information Birth name Luther Ronzoni Vandross Born April 20, 1951
Manhattan, New York,
Died July 1, 2005(aged 54)
Edison, New Jersey,
Genres R&B, soul, soft rock Occupations Singer-songwriter, record producer Years active 1968–2005 Labels Cotillion, Epic, Virgin, J, Legacy Associated acts Change, Chic, Dionne Warwick, Richard Marx, Whitney Houston Website luthervandross.com
Luther Ronzoni Vandross (April 20, 1951 - July 1, 2005) was an American singer-songwriter and record producer. During his career, Vandross sold over twenty-five million albums and won eight Grammy Awards including Best Male R&B Vocal Performance four times. He won four Grammy Awards in 2004 including the Grammy Award for Song of the Year for the track "Dance with My Father", co-written with Richard Marx.
1951–1979: Early life and career
Luther Ronzoni Vandross was born on April 20, 1951 at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan, New York City, United States. He was the fourth child and second son to Mary Ida Vandross and Luther Vandross, Sr.
Born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York City in the NYCHA Alfred E. Smith Houses public housing development, Vandross began playing the piano at the age of three. He grew up in a musical family that moved to the Bronx when he was thirteen. His sister, Patricia Van Dross, sang with the vocal group The Crests, who had a number two hit in 1958 with "16 Candles (song)", though she left the group before the recording. Vandross's father died of diabetes when Vandross was eight years old. Luther Vandross was in a high school group, Shades of Jade, that once played at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. He was also a member of a theater workshop, "Listen My Brother" who released the singles "Only Love Can Make a Better World" and "Listen My Brother", and appeared on the second and fifth episodes of Sesame Street in November 1969.
Vandross attended Western Michigan University for a year before dropping out to continue pursuing a career in music.
His next hit credit was on an album by Roberta Flack in 1972. He was the founder of the first-ever Patti LaBelle fan club. Luther also sang on Delores Hall's Hall-Mark album from 1973. He sang with her on the song "Who's Gonna Make It Easier for Me", which he wrote. He also contributed another song, "In This Lonely Hour." Having co-written "Fascination" for David Bowie's Young Americans, he went on to tour with him as a back-up vocalist in September 1974. Vandross wrote "Everybody Rejoice" for the 1975 Broadway musical The Wiz and appeared as a choir member in the movie.
Before his breakthrough, Vandross was part of a singing quintet in the late '70s named Luther, consisting of former Shades of Jade members Anthony Hinton and Diane Sumler, Theresa V. Reed, and Christine Wiltshire, signed to Cotillion Records. Although the singles "It's Good for the Soul", "Funky Music (Is a Part of Me)", and "The Second Time Around" were relatively successful, their two albums, the self-titled Luther (1976) and This Close to You (1977), didn't sell enough to make the charts. Vandross bought back the rights to these albums after Cotillion dropped the group, preventing their later re-release.
Vandross also wrote and sang commercial jingles during the late 1970s and early 1980s, and continued his successful career as a popular session singer during the late 1970s.
Luther also sang lead vocals for a disco band called Greg Diamond's Bionic Boogie on the song titled "Hot Butterfly." Luther also sang with the band Soirée, where he was the lead vocalist on the track "You Are the Sunshine of My Life", and contributed background vocals to the album along with Jocelyn Brown and Sharon Redd, each of whom also saw solo success. He also sang the lead vocals on the group Mascara LP title song "See You in L.A." released in 1979. Luther shines with his impeccable singing supported by his group's co-members David Lalsey and Ula Hedwig.
1980–2003: Career success
Luther Vandross finally made his long desired career breakthrough as a featured singer with the vaunted pop-dance act Change, a studio concept created by French-Italian businessman Jacques Fred Petrus. Their 1980 hits, "A Lover's Holiday" (by Romani and Willoughby), "The Glow of Love" (by Romani, Malavasi and Garfield) and "Searching" (by Malavasi), of which Vandross sang on all three, opened up the world for Vandross. And there was no doubt about whether Vandross liked the song "The Glow of Love". In an interview that Vibe Magazine did with him in 2001 Vandross said, "This is the most beautiful song I've ever sung in my life." Vandross was also originally intended to perform on the second and highly successful Change album "Miracles" in 1981, but declined the offer as Petrus didn't pay enough money. Vandross' decision rapidly led to a recording contract with Epic Records that same year but didn't stop him from doing some background vocals on "Miracles" and on the new Petrus created act, The B. B. & Q. band in 1981. During that hectic year Vandross jump-started his second attempt at a solo career with his debut album, Never Too Much. In addition to the hit title track it contained a version of the Burt Bacharach / Hal David song "A House Is Not a Home". The song "Never Too Much", written by himself, reached number-one on the R&B charts. This period also marked the beginning of frequent songwriting collaboration with bassist Marcus Miller, who played on many of the tracks and would also produce or co-produce a number of tracks for Vandross. The Never Too Much album was arranged by high school classmate Nat Adderley, Jr., a collaboration that would last through Vandross's career.
Vandross released a series of successful R&B albums during the 1980s and continued his session work with guest vocals on groups like Charme in 1982. Many of his earlier albums made a bigger impact on the R&B charts than on the pop charts. During the 1980s, Vandross had two singles that reached #1 on the Billboard R&B charts: "Stop to Love", in 1986, and a duet with Gregory Hines—"There's Nothing Better Than Love." Vandross was at the helm as producer for Aretha Franklin's Gold-certified, award-winning comeback album Jump to It. He also produced the disappointing follow-up album, 1983's Get It Right. In 1983, the opportunity to work with his main music influence, Dionne Warwick, came about with Vandross producing, writing songs, and singing on How Many Times Can We Say Goodbye, her fourth album for Arista Records. The title track duet reached #27 on the Hot 100 chart (#7 R&B/#4 Adult Contemporary), while the second single, "Got a Date" was only a moderate hit (#45 R&B/#15 Club Play).
In 1985, Luther Vandross first spotted the talent of Jimmy Salvemini, 15 at the time, on Star Search. He thought Salvemini had the perfect voice for some of his songs. He contacted Salvemini, who was managed by his brother Larry. A contract was negotiated with Elektra records for $250,000 and Luther agreed to produce the album. Luther even contacted old friends to appear on the album, Cheryl Lynn, Alfa Anderson (Chic), Phoebe Snow and Irene Cara. After the album was completed, Luther, Jimmy, and Larry decided to celebrate. On January 12, 1986, they were riding in Luther's convertible Mercedes when it crossed the yellow lines of the two lane street and smashed into two vehicles. All three men were rushed to the hospital. Larry Salvemini died during surgery, and Vandross and Jimmy Salvemini survived. At first, the Salvemini family was supportive of Luther. In 1986, Luther faced vehicular manslaughter charges as a result of Larry's death. Vandross pled no contest to reckless driving. The Salvemini family filed a wrongful death suit against Vandross. The case was quietly settled out of court with a payment to the Salvemini family for $700,000. The album called "Roll With It" was released later that year.
In 1986, Vandross voiced a cartoon character named Zack for three Saturday morning animated PSA spots for ABC Television called 'Zack of All Trades'.
The 1989 compilation The Best of Luther Vandross... The Best of Love included the ballad "Here and Now", his first single to chart in the Billboard pop chart top ten, peaking at number six. He won his first Grammy award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance in 1991.
More albums followed in the 1990s, beginning with 1991's Power of Love which spawned two top ten pop hits. He won his second Best Male R&B Vocal in the Grammy Awards of 1992 with the track "Power of Love/Love Power" winning the Grammy Award for Best R&B Song in the same year. In 1992, "The Best Things in Life Are Free", a duet with Janet Jackson from the movie Mo' Money became a hit.
Vandross hit the top ten again in 1994 with Mariah Carey, doing a cover version of Lionel Richie and Diana Ross's duet "Endless Love". He also appears on Frank Sinatra's posthumous Duets album. In the Grammy Awards of 1997, he won his third Best Male R&B Vocal for the track "Your Secret Love". A second greatest hits album, released in 1997, compiled most of his 1990s hits and was his final album released through Epic Records. After releasing I Know on Virgin Records, he signed with J Records. His first album on Clive Davis's new label, entitled Luther Vandross, was released in 2001, and it produced the hits "Take You Out" (#7 R&B/#26 Pop), and "I'd Rather" (#17 Adult Contemporary/#40 R&B/#83 Pop) Vandross scored at least one top 10 R&B hit every year from 1981-1994.
In 2003, Vandross released the album Dance With My Father. The title track, which was dedicated to Vandross' memory childhood dances with his father, won Luther and his co-writer, Richard Marx, the 2004 Grammy Award for Song of the Year. The song also won Vandross his fourth and final award in the Best Male R&B Vocal Performance category. The album was his first to reach number one on the Billboard album chart. The video for the title track features various celebrities alongside their fathers and other family members. The 2nd single released from that album, "Think About You" was the Number One Urban Adult Contemporary Song of 2004 according to Radio & Records.
In 2003, after the televised NCAA Men's Basketball championship, CBS Sports gave "One Shining Moment" a new look. Luther, who had been to only one basketball game in his life, was the new singer, and the video didn't have any special effects like glowing basketballs and star trails like it did in previous years. This song version is in use today.
2003–2005: Illness and death
Vandross suffered from diabetes and hypertension, both of which ran in his family.
On April 16, 2003, Vandross suffered a stroke at his home in Manhattan, New York. At the time of his stroke, he had just finished the final vocals for the album Dance With My Father. His collaborator on the album was pop star Richard Marx, whom Vandross had met in 1989 and been friendly with since. The two worked together on numerous projects over the years, with Vandross appearing on three of Marx's albums. Upon its release, Dance With My Father became the first and only Luther Vandross record to hit #1. It was also his biggest-selling studio album ever, selling nearly 3 million copies in the United States alone. The title track was also a hit, and won the 2004 Grammy Award for Song of the Year.
He appeared briefly on videotape at the 2004 Grammy Awards to accept his Song of the Year Award, where he said, "Whenever I say goodbye it's never for long because I believe in the power of love". Other than an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, he was never seen in public again.
His funeral was in New York City on July 8, 2005. After two days of viewing, Vandross was entombed at George Washington Memorial Park in Paramus, New Jersey. Much of his estate was left to friends and his godson Mark West.
In 2008, Luther Vandross was ranked #54 on Rolling Stone's Magazine's List of 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.
- On July 27, 2004, GRP Records released a smooth jazz various artists tribute album, Forever, For Always, For Luther, with ten popular songs written by Luther. The album featured vocal arrangements by Luther, and was produced by Rex Rideout and Bud Harner. Rideout had co-authored songs and contributed arrangements and played keyboards on Luther's final three albums. The tribute album was mixed by Ray Bardani, who recorded and mixed most of Luther's music over the years. It featured an ensemble of smooth jazz performers, many of whom had previously worked with Luther.
- In 2000, Whitney Houston sang Vandross' "So Amazing" as a tribute to Vandross as he sat in the audience during a BET Special. Johnny Gill, El Debarge, and Kenny Lattimore provided background vocals.
- On September 20, 2005, the album So Amazing: An All-Star Tribute to Luther Vandross was released. The album is a collection of some of Luther's songs performed by various artists, including Stevie Wonder, Mary J. Blige, Usher, Fantasia, Beyoncé Knowles, Donna Summer, Alicia Keys, Elton John, Celine Dion, Wyclef Jean, Babyface, Patti LaBelle, John Legend, Angie Stone, Jamie Foxx, Teddy Pendergrass, Chris Farley and Aretha Franklin. Aretha Franklin won a Grammy for her rendition of "A House Is Not a Home", and Stevie Wonder and Beyoncé won a Grammy for their cover of "So Amazing".
- The violin duo Nuttin' But Stringz did a remix of the song "Dance with My Father" for their album Struggle from the Subway to the Charts, which was released on October 3, 2006.
- On November 21, 2006, saxophonist Dave Koz released a followup to the earlier smooth jazz GRP tribute album, this time on his own Rendezvous Entertainment label, an album called Forever, For Always, For Luther Volume II, also produced by Rex Rideout and Bud Harner. Dave Koz played on all the featured Luther Vandross tracks, which were recorded by various smooth jazz artists.
- In 2007, Deniece Williams included "Never Too Much" on her Love, Niecy Style CD. Williams said that she recorded the song to say "I love you" to her old friend.
- The music video "Bye Bye" from Mariah Carey sees Vandross' picture appear in the closing images. His image was included as a tribute along with various other deceased people with whom Carey had collaborated.
- On A Different Me, Keyshia Cole sings the outro to "Luther Vandross" on "Playa Cardz Right", which features rapper Tupac Shakur.
- Guitarist Norman Brown did a rendition of "Any Love" on his 1994 album After The Storm.
- R&B band 112 sampled Vandross' "Don't You Know That" to make their song "Love Me" on their second album Room 112.
- Saxophonist Boney James covers his rendition on his final track "The Night I Fell In Love" on Backbone in 1994.
- Author Craig Seymour wrote a book about Vandross called Luther: The Life and Longing of Luther Vandross. The book includes numerous interviews with Vandross.
- In 2009, Jadakiss sampled Vandross' "Promise Me" to make his song "The Things I've Been Through" on his album, "The Last Kiss".
- In 1998, well-known guitarist Peter White covered the Vandross song "Don't Want to Be a Fool", from the album Perfect Moment.
- In November 2006, Korean singer K included a cover of the Vandross song "Every Year, Every Christmas" on his Christmas single, ファースト・クリスマス ("First Christmas"), released in Japan. It was also later added to his tribute album, The Timeless Collection Vol. 1.
- Tribute artists include FiL Straughan, a singer based in London and New York, and Harry Cambridge.
- In 2010, NPR included Vandross in its 50 Greatest Voices in recorded history, saying Vandross represents "the platinum standard for R&B song stylings." The announcement was made on NPR's All Things Considered on November 29, 2010.
- In late 2010, rapper Battman D.E. GannaBanna sampled Vandross' "Make Me A Believer" for his song "Wanna Luv U" on his debut album The World Is A MothaF**kin' Ghetto.
- Hip-hop duo Young Gunz featuring Rell sampled Vandross' "Better Love" to the make the song "No Better Love" on their 2004 Roc-A-Fella Records debut album, Tough Luv.
- Jacob Lusk performed "Dance With My Father" on American Idol season 10 as a tribute to his late father Gregory Lusk and as a tribute to Vandross on April 20, 2011.
- Smooth jazz urban saxophonist Alfonzo Blackwell covered the song on his 2001 Reflections CD, just two months after Vandross' self-titled release.
J Records released a song "Shine"—an upbeat R&B track that samples Chic's disco song "My Forbidden Lover"—reaching #31 on the R&B chart. A later remix peaked at #10 on the Club Play chart. "Shine" and a track entitled "Got You Home" are previously unreleased songs on The Ultimate Luther Vandross, a greatest hits album on Epic Records/J Records/Legacy Recordings that was released August 22, 2006.
On October 16, 2007, Epic Records/J Records/Legacy Recordings released a 4 disc box set entitled Love, Luther. It features all of Vandross' R&B and pop hits throughout his career. The set also includes "There's Only You", a version of which had originally appeared on the soundtrack to the 1987 film Made in Heaven.
Grammy Award history Year Category Title Field Result 1982 Best New Artist — General Nominated Best R&B Vocal Performance - Male Never Too Much R&B Nominated 1983 Best R&B Vocal Performance - Male Forever, For Always, For Love R&B Nominated 1986 Best R&B Vocal Performance - Male The Night I Fell in Love R&B Nominated 1987 Best R&B Vocal Performance - Male "Give Me the Reason" R&B Nominated Best R&B Song "Give Me the Reason"
(shared with Nat Adderley, Jr.)
R&B Nominated 1989 Best R&B Vocal Performance - Male Any Love R&B Nominated Best R&B Song "Any Love"
(shared with Marcus Miller)
R&B Nominated 1990 Best R&B Vocal Performance - Male "She Won't Talk to Me" R&B Nominated 1991 Best R&B Vocal Performance - Male "Here and Now" R&B Won 1992 Best R&B Vocal Performance - Male Power of Love R&B Won Best R&B Song "Power of Love/Love Power"
(shared with Marcus Miller & Teddy Vann)
R&B Won Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group "Doctor's Orders"
(shared with Aretha Franklin)
R&B Nominated 1993 Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group "The Best Things in Life Are Free"
(shared with Janet Jackson)
R&B Nominated 1994 Best R&B Vocal Performance - Male "How Deep Is Your Love" R&B Nominated 1995 Best Pop Vocal Performance - Male "Love the One You're With" Pop Nominated Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals "Endless Love"
(shared with Mariah Carey)
Pop Nominated Best R&B Vocal Performance - Male "Always and Forever" R&B Nominated Best R&B Album Songs R&B Nominated 1997 Best R&B Vocal Performance - Male "Your Secret Love" R&B Won Best R&B Song "Your Secret Love"
(shared with Reed Vertelney)
R&B Nominated 1998 Best R&B Vocal Performance - Male "When You Call On Me / Baby That's When I Come Runnin'" R&B Nominated 1999 Best R&B Vocal Performance - Male "I Know" R&B Nominated 1999 Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance I Know R&B Nominated 2003 Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance "Any Day Now" R&B Nominated 2004 Song of the Year "Dance with My Father"
(shared with Richard Marx)
General Won Best R&B Album Dance with My Father R&B Won Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group "The Closer I Get to You"
(shared with Beyoncé)
R&B Won Best R&B Vocal Performance - Male "Dance with My Father" R&B Won Best R&B Song "Dance with My Father"
(shared with Richard Marx)
R&B Nominated 2007 Best R&B Vocal Performance - Male "Got You Home" R&B Nominated
- ^ "Luther Vandross". AskMen.com (UK Edition). http://uk.askmen.com/men/entertainment_100/132b_luther_vandross.html. Retrieved 2006-12-02.
- ^ "Vandross' Funeral Soulful and Powerful". Yahoo! News. July 8, 2005. http://music.yahoo.com/read/news/21620783. Retrieved 2006-12-02.
- ^ "Obituary: Luther Vandross". BBC News. July 1, 2005. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/music/2975731.stm. Retrieved 2006-12-02.
- ^ a b Seymour 2004, p. 16
- ^ Seymour 2004, p. 15
- ^ Stewart, Zan. "Born to swing: Nat Adderley Jr. returns to his roots", The Star-Ledger, September 10, 2009. Accessed September 10, 2009.
- ^ .Artist Chart History
- ^ Artist Chart History
- ^ "Song Facts web site". http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=1318.
- ^ "100 Greatest Singers: Luther Vandross". http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/100-greatest-singers-of-all-time-19691231/luther-vandross-19691231.
- ^ Forever, For Always, For Luther, VerveMusicGroup.com
- ^ Forever, For Always, For Luther Volume II, smoothvibes.com
- ^ EUR Web article, "Luther Boxed Set Includes Rare/Unreleased Tracks, EURWeb.com
- Seymour, Craig (2004). Luther: The Life and Longing of Luther Vandross. New York, NY: HarperEntertainment. ISBN 0060594187. http://books.google.com/books?id=2sh1meimv0sC&dq=%22Luther+Vandross&source=gbs_navlinks_s. Retrieved 30 April 2011.
- Vandross, Luther. The Best of Luther Vandross: The Best of Love, Hal Leonard Corporation, 1990 - ISBN 0-7935-0291-8
- Official site
- Remembering Luther Vandross
- Luther Vandross at Allmusic
- Luther Vandross at the Internet Movie Database
- Luther Vandross at Find A Grave
Grammy Award for Song of the Year (2000s)
Itaal Shur & Rob Thomas - "Smooth" (2000) · Adam Clayton, David Evans, Larry Mullen, Jr. & Paul Hewson - "Beautiful Day" (2001) · Alicia Keys - "Fallin'" (2002) · Jesse Harris - "Don't Know Why" (2003) · Richard Marx & Luther Vandross - "Dance with My Father" (2004) · John Mayer - "Daughters" (2005) · Adam Clayton, David Evans, Larry Mullen, Jr. & Paul Hewson - "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own" (2006) · Emily Burns Irwin, Martha Maguire, Natalie Maines Pasdar & Dan Wilson - "Not Ready to Make Nice" (2007) · Amy Winehouse - "Rehab" (2008) · Guy Berryman, Jonathan Buckland, William Champion & Christopher Martin - "Viva la Vida" (2009)
Complete list · (1960s) · (1970s) · (1980s) · (1990s) · (2000s) · (2010s)
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