Luther Vandross is easily recognized as one of the top R&B singers of all time. Born in New York, he attended Taft High School but cut short his formal education at the Western Michigan University to answer his musical calling. As a teenager, he worked with the musical theatre workshop, Listen My Brother. The workshop was affiliated with Harlem's Apollo Theatre. It was at this workshop he met current friends and colleagues Fonzi Thornton, Nat Adderly Jr, Carlos Alomar, and Robin Clark. Though he has emerged as possibly the world's greatest R&B singer, Luther entered the amateur competition at the Apollo a total of three times, but never won! Go figure!!
He refers to this as a chance meeting...this writer believes it was part of a divine plan and fated...he was invited by workshop colleague, Carlos Alomar, to join him in the studio (just to observe) with David Bowie for the recording of 'Young Americans'. David Bowie was so impressed by Luther, he invited him to arrange the vocal parts and make a substantial contribution to the backing vocals for the album. This led to his demand as a session vocalist for such acts as Chaka Khan, Ringo Starr, Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer. In 1975, he signed with the Cotillion label as part of a specially put-together vocal group, Luther. Luther and his 'Close To You' did not live up to expectations, but this did not deter him from his goal.
Luther went back to session work performing with Quincy Jones, Patti Austin, Gwen Guthrie, Chic and Sister Sledge. He sang jingles "on the side". In 1980, he performed as lead vocalist with the studio group "Change" on the hits 'Glow of Love' and 'Searching'. Luther says that he saved the money he made from sessions with Roberta Flack and made "Never too much" and "A House is not a Home". These recordings were presented to major labels but were turned down by everyone! Had he been a quitter, the world would have missed being embraced by the extradordinary voice and talent that is Luther Vandross. Miss Flack introduced him to Larkin Arnold and he was signed as a solo artist by Epic Records. "Never Too MUch" was released in 1981 and it earned him an R&B number 1 single. As his colleague and song writing partner Marcus Miller (yes, THE Marcus Miller, bass player extraordinaire) says "It was like a desert, and Luther had water"
Luther's popularity started to permeate throughout the R&B music world. He wasn't giving us "flavor of the day" music, as he puts it...it was music that defined important moments in our personal lives. Luther has won countless awards, including 4 Grammys. He is a prolific song writer and often collaborates with Marcus Miller, and his band director Nat Adderly, Jr. He wrote "Jump to It" for Aretha Franklin and has produced for others including Diana Ross, and Gregory Hines.
He parted ways with Sony in the mid 90's. "I Know" marked his debut for EMI Records, entering the US album chart at number 26 in August 1998. Sadly, this exquisite album was the only Vandross recording that did not go platinum. In 2000, he signed with Clive Davis' J Records and realeased the self-titled "Luther Vandross" in 2001. This was followed in 2003 with "Dance with My Father" and his first live album, "Luther Vandross live at Radio City Music Hall".
On April 16, 2003, he suffered a massive stroke at his Manhattan apartment. The world prayed for Luther, and like the winner he is, he pulled through. He spent about 6 weeks in the Intensive Care Unit of the Weill Cornell Medical facility. Two weeks after, he was moved to a rehabilitation center. The body of work that Luther has given us so far, can last several lifetimes, but we all look forward to seeing him perform again.
Je t'aime Lu!