“When history books are written, I’d like it to be said that I am one of the premiere singers of our time.”
Luther Ronzoni Vandross, one of the finest R&B singers of the last thirty years and indeed one of the “premiere singers of our time,” with a voice of muscle and chiffon, died on Friday, July 1st, 2005 at John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Edison, NJ. He was 54 and never fully recovered from an April, 2003 stroke.
The embodiment of “quiet storm,” the highly-admired singer/songwriter/producer has sold in excess of 30 million records worldwide, winning eight Grammy Awards, numerous Soul Train, BET, NAACP Image and American Music Awards.
He ranked as one of the most successful R& B singers of the 1980’s and broke through to even wider commercial success in 1989 with the Best of Luther Vandross, The Best of Love, which included the new song “Here and Now,” his first Grammy winning hit which became a signature wedding song.
Born in New York City in 1951, Luther was the youngest of four children. In 1972, a song Vandross wrote, “Everybody Rejoice,” was included in the Broadway musical “The Wiz.” But his biggest early break came when he landed a job as a backup singer for David Bowie and created vocal arrangements for the the neo-soul classic Young Americans.
Vandross quickly became a sought-after backup vocalist and arranger, working with artists from Bette Midler to Barbra Streisand, and he helped pay the bills as one of the most popular jingle singers of the time. His 1981 debut, Never Too Much, reached the top of the R&B charts and sold more than one million copies.
Through the 1980’s, he recorded a string of platinum albums, including Forever, For Always, For Love, Busy Body and The Night I Fell in Love. His last album, Dance With My Father received four Grammy Awards (including Song of the Year for the title song “Dance With My Father”) and has generated worldwide sales exceeding 3 million copies.
Recording Academy president Neil Portnow said, “As one of the top vocalists in R&B and pop music, this … icon has had an indelible career writing, singing and producing hits — all made instantly memorable by his soothing and sensuous tenor. Luther’s life and songs demonstrated the power of love, and his music will live on forever, though we will miss a good friend and an immensely talented man.”
Luther was also a prolific writer and producer for others, including Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Whitney Houston, and Dionne Warwick.
He leaves to cherish and celebrate his life, legacy, and wonderful memories a loving and devoted mother, Mary Ida Vandross, nine nieces as well as eight great nephews, three great nieces and a circle of close friends and colleagues, his musical family and millions of loyal, supportive fans.
Funeral services will be held at Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel, located at 1076 Madison Avenue (at 81st Street) on Wednesday and Thursday, July 6 and 7 with public viewings from 4:00pm – 9:00pm. The Memorial Service will be held Friday, July 8 at Riverside Church, located at 490 Riverside Drive, scheduled for 12:00pm.