10 Years Later: Remembering the Greatness of Luther Vandross
When it comes to R&B balladeers, no one comes close to the velvety voice of the late Luther Vandross. His trademark falsetto made songs like “Never Too Much,” “Here and Now” and “Superstar” mainstays on Quiet Storm radio. Ten years after his untimely death, the legendary singer is, arguably, one of the most stylistic soul crooners the R&B world has ever witnessed.
A veteran singer-songwriter, Vandross started out his career writing jingles for such companies like Juicy Fruit, Burger King and Mountain Dew. He would later segue into penning songs for Broadway musicals and sing background vocals for such artists as David Bowie, Donna Summer, Chic, Chaka Khan and Bette Midler, among others. Vandross also achieved minor success as a member of the disco group Change in 1980.
In 1981, Vandross pursued a solo career and managed to secure a recording deal with Epic Records. This led to the release of his debut album Never Too Much, which boasts his indelible title track and his much beloved classic ballad, “A House Is Not a Home.”
Subsequent releases like Forever, for Always, for Love (1982), Busy Body (1983), The Night I Fell in Love (1985), Give Me the Reason (1986) and Any Love (1988) helped established Vandross as an innovative singer and producer.
What made the singer connect so well with listeners -- both men and women -- was his sensitivity to love in his songs. While other male R&B singers were sexually aggressive on their bedroom ballads, Vandross was more gentle; he wanted his songs to be sexy without being salacious. He felt it was important show the connection of two people in love and all of the emotions that come with it.
Sadly on July 1, 2005, Vandross died from a heart attack at the age of 54. Prior to his death, he suffered a stroke in 2003, which left him in a coma for two months. The stroke also left him confined to a wheelchair and gave him some difficulty with singing and speaking.
Although Luther Vandross is gone, his musical legacy will never be forgotten.
"One thing I really love about my career is that when I came out, I wasn't hailed as 'the new Otis Redding' or 'the new Sam Cooke.' I wasn't 'the new Teddy Pendergrass or Smokey Robinson.' I wasn't the new anybody. I was Luther," Vandross said in the live performance DVD Luther Vandross Always and Forever: An Evening of Song at the Royal Albert Hall.
Forever, for always, for Luther. R.I.P.