Luther Vandross (1951-2005) was one of the defining singers and songwriters of R&B/Soul
during The Eighties
and The Nineties
. Inspired by '60s and '70s icons such as The Supremes
, Patti LaBelle and Dionne Warwick
, Vandross got his start by writing “Everybody Rejoice” for the musical (later movie) The Wiz
His big break took place when David Bowie
overheard Vandross discussing vocal arrangements with guitarist Carlos Alomar. Vandross was invited by Bowie to sing and arrange background vocals on his Young Americans
album. (He also co-wrote one of the album's songs, "Fascination.") Shortly thereafter, Vandross found fairly steady work as a background and commercial jingle singer, earning the occasional featured vocal credit along the way.
In 1981, Vandross released his first solo album, Never Too Much
, which quickly found admiration among R&B fans. His next five albums, Forever, For Always, For Love
, Busy Body
, The Night I Fell In Love
, Give Me The Reason
and Any Love
were also extraordinarily popular. His music is known for being deeply romantic and sensual; it is often joked that if you were born in the 80's or early 90's, there's a chance you owe your conception to him.
Vandross, however, also sought crossover success. Later hits such as “Here and Now”, “Power of Love/Love Power”, “The Best Things In Life Are Free” (a duet with Janet Jackson
) and “Endless Love” (a duet with Mariah Carey
and cover of the Lionel Richie
and Diana Ross
song) proved very popular with both pop and R&B audiences. The coveted #1 pop spot eluded Vandross until 2003, when he released the title track from his album Dance With My Father
, a tribute to his father who passed away when he was eight.
Unfortunately, his own health troubles—he had a notorious love of extremely unhealthy foodnote
and otherwise lived poorly—had taken a serious toll on him. Vandross suffered a stroke shortly after completing Dance With My Father
, leaving him unable to personally accept the four Grammy Awards he won that year.
Despite his reputation for romantic songs, he never married and had no known relationships with women, leading to popular speculation that he was gay. Songs such as Dance With My Father
and Any Love
have been interpreted as evidence of this.
Vandross died in July of 2005 at the age of 54, leaving behind heartbroken fans and a legacy as one of the greatest solo R&B artists of all time.
- Never Too Much (1981)
- Forever, For Always, For Love (1982)
- Busy Body (1983)
- The Night I Fell in Love (1985)
- Give Me the Reason (1986)
- Any Love (1988)
- Power of Love (1991)
- Never Let Me Go (1993)
- Songs (1994)
- Your Secret Love (1996)
- I Know (1998)
- Luther Vandross (2001)
- Dance with My Father (2003)