Luther Vandross

John Florens | Mar 15, 2024

Table of Content


Luther Ronzoni Vandross, born April 20, 1951 in New York and died July 1, 2005 in Edison, is an American R&B and soul singer and songwriter. He sold more than 25 million records during his career including the best R&B singer 4 times. He won 4 Grammy Awards in 2004 including the one for the best song of the year for Dance With My Father, co-written with Richard Marx.

Luther Vandross was born on April 20, 1951 in Manhattan, New York. He began to be known in 1972 when he wrote Everybody rejoice (A brand new day) for the musical The wiz. But the road to success will be long since it will take a decade to break through and another decade to have a pop success.

In 1974 he participated in David Bowie's album Young Americans (album released in 1975). He was part of the chorus and wrote a song with Bowie, Fascination. This led to a contract as a backing singer for Atlantic where he sang for Bette Midler, Carly Simon, Barbra Streisand, Average White Band and Roberta Flack among others. He also sings music for television commercials during the second half of the 1970s.

Then with a little help from Donna Summer he creates the group Luther at Cotillion. Two albums will be released in the general indifference: Luther in 1976 and This close to you in 1977. After having sung on the first album of Chic in 1977, on C'est chic of Chic as "special guest artist", on the album Hot butterfly of Bionic Boogie in 1978, on Music box of Evelyn King (1979) and as a chorister of the Sister Sledge on We are family (1979), he is part of Charme (on the album Let it in in 1979), of New York City Band (for the soundtrack of the film Sunnyside) and especially of Change. For this group he sings The glow of love and Searching in 1980 and is a backing singer on their 1981 album. In 1980 he co-wrote Welcome back on the second album of Peter Jacques Band and also participated as a chorister in Fame, in the album of Cissy Houston Step aside for a lady, in the album of Chaka Khan Naughty and in the album of Cher Prisoner.

In September 1981 he released his first real album on Epic. The album, entitled Never too much, went platinum, #1 R&B for two weeks in the US, #19 pop, and the single of the same name went to #1 R&B, hitting the boxes on a 12". Vandross established a style of R&B chic that would not vary much over the years. He also surrounded himself with musicians to whom he would remain faithful: Marcus Miller (bass), Nat Adderley, Jr. (keyboards) and Cissy Houston (backing vocals) among others. The album consists of seven songs for which he is the artistic director. He wrote six of them and the seventh is a cover of A house is not home.

Still in 1981 he made the arrangements of the choruses of five songs of the album I'll keep on loving you of Linda Clifford. He also sings as a backing vocalist.

Forever, for always, for love followed in 1982, #1 R&B in the U.S. and a platinum record. The songs are again written or co-written by Vandross except the first one, a medley containing Sam Cooke's Having a Party, and the third one, Since I lost my baby, originally written by Moore and Robinson for the Temptations.

In England these two albums will not be released in their entirety but will be replaced by a selection of the two entitled Luther Vandross. They will finally be released in 1986 and 1987 respectively. Still in 1982 he made an album entitled Instant love for Cheryl Lynn, it contains the cover of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell If this world were mine that Vandross sings with Lynn.

In 1982 he produced Jump to it for Aretha Franklin, Anyone can see, Irene Cara's first solo album, he participated in Marcus Miller's Suddenly by co-writing a song (Be my love) and by being the backing singer on two others (Lovin' you and Just for you), he sings as a backing singer on Diana Ross' "So close", a song for which he made the vocal arrangements, and finally he sings as a chorister on You've Really Got a Hold on Me, a song for which he made the vocal arrangements and which is a cover of Smokey Robinson sung by Bernard Edwards and Jocelyn Brown on Edwards' album Glad to be here.

He released his fifth album in 1983, Busy body, which also went platinum and was #1 R&B.

Finally in 1984 he participated in the soundtrack of the film Choose me with a song, "You're my choice tonight (Choose me)", declined in several versions throughout the film. This song was released on Pendergrass's album Love language where it is the only one produced by Vandross.

In 1985 he released The Night I Fell in Love, a pivotal album between the first three albums of the beginning with a sound not yet dominated by synthesizers and those that followed with arrangements very marked by their time. The album will sell very well and will be double platinum, in addition to the usual nº1 R&B.

Still in 1985 he sings She's so good to me for the soundtrack of the movie Goonies. There the chic arrangements leaving the preponderance to the bass are replaced by the drum machine. In November 1985 the album Touch me of the Temptations is released with Do you really love your baby which is co-written by Marcus Miller and Vandross who also takes part as a chorus.

His next album Give me the reason was released in 1986, Vandross wrote or co-wrote all the tracks except Anyone Who Had a Heart, by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. The first track on the album, Stop to Love (#1 R&B and #15 pop), was remixed by Marcus Miller for the EP. The song was played on MTV and it was the first time a Vandross music video was played extensively. The album hit #1 R&B and #14 pop and sold over two million copies in the United States (double platinum). It also stayed on the US chart for 53 weeks.

In 1987 Luther Vandross made a song for Diana Ross on her album Red hot rhythm & blues by co-writing and making the ballad It's hard for me to say.

Any Love, released in 1988, is almost an entire album of ballads except for the rhythmic She Won't Talk to Me (#3 R&B), which was also released as a Keith Cohen house remix EP. The album reached #1 R&B and for the first time Vandross managed to turn this success into a pop chart hit with a #9 pop. The album is another platinum record for the singer.

In 1989 he released a double compilation The best of love (nº2 R&B, double platinum). It contains two unreleased songs, including "Here and now". The latter, co-written by David Elliott, Dionne Warwick's son, is a ballad that became Vandross' biggest pop hit (gold record, #1 R&B and #6 pop in late 1989). It also won an award, the "best male R&B vocal performance" at the 1990 Grammys. The other unreleased track is Treat you right.

In 1990 he directed Who do you love for Whitney Houston, followed the next year by Docter's orders, a duet with Aretha Franklin.

In 1991, Power of Love was released, his best-selling album ever (double platinum and #1 R&B). It was produced by Vandross and Miller, while the songs were co-written by Vandross and those who have been with him throughout his career (Miller, Vertelney, Adderley, Eaves and Anderson). The single Power of love

That same year, he participated in the first solo album of his backing singer Lisa Fischer, So Intense. He produces and arranges part of the record while participating in the vocal arrangements and backing vocals. He writes two songs with Marcus Miller, Get back to love and Some girls. In 1992 he participates in the soundtrack of Mo' money singing "The Best Things In Life Are Free" with Janet Jackson (#1 R&B, #10 pop, #3 club play and #39 in EP sales).

Followed in 1993 Never let me go, a platinum album. This album has the particularity to be the first one launched on the label LV records, an association between Luther Vandross and Epic. Except for the covers, the songs are mainly written by Vandross and Miller or Vandross and Reed Vertelney (who also plays synthesizers). The production is in the hands of Vandross and Miller.

In 1993 he also participated in the film Meteor man by Robert Townsend. Also in 1993, Luther Vandross sings The Lady Is a Tramp with Frank Sinatra on his album Duets and he is one of the backing singers on Diana Ross' "Your Love", a song for which he also does the choral arrangements.

In 1994 he released Songs, a very successful album composed only of covers (platinum record). The idea to make a cover album was not Vandross' but the Epic record company, which paired him with the artistic director Walter Afanassief, who had worked with the successful singer Mariah Carey. The hit is Endless Love, a duet with Mariah Carey.

In 1995 he released This is Christmas, an album of Christmas songs, of the ten songs on the album, seven are original compositions written or co-written by Vandross.

The following year he released a compilation entitled Greatest hits 1981-1995, with a photo of cover contrasting with the previous ones and playing on a young register where he wears a pair of glasses of rapper, a big chain and a metallic jacket.

In 1996 he released Your secret love for which he received an award, the "best male R&B vocal performance" at the 1996 Grammys.

In 1997 he released The best of love, volume 2 : One night with you. It is a compilation of 15 tracks including four unreleased. The unreleased tracks are three ballads (one of them by Diane Warren and the other by R. Kelly) and a medium slow dance song by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.

After 15 years and eleven albums, Vandross is ending his relationship with Epic.

In 1998 he released I know, on the Virgin label, and had some songs produced by men outside his usual team. These are fashionable mixers like Tony Moran (who co-wrote and co-directed the good Religion), Little Louie Vega and Kenny Dope Gonzalez, with the result being a much more hip-hop record than usual. But the old style is still present and the jazz singer Cassandra Wilson and Stevie Wonder don't shake up his habits nor the accustomed backing singers like Cissy Houston, Tawatha Agee and Lisa Fischer.

Luther Vandross is also featured on the backing vocals of Natalie Cole's "Say You Love Me" Snowfall on the Sahara (1999).

The success of I know not being up to the expectations of both parties, the association with Virgin will not last and the next album of Vandross is released by J records in 2001. It is paradoxically entitled Luther Vandross while he co-wrote only six songs of the fourteen of the album and he shares the functions of artistic director with half a dozen others. Backup singers Cissy Houston, Tawatha Agee, Fonzi Thornton, Cindy Mizelle, Brenda White-King and bassist and arranger Marcus Miller are still there, though.

In 2002, he sings some verses on Michael Jackson's humanitarian song What more can I give with a host of other stars. Still the same year, he sings as a chorus on the album Love and freedom of BeBe Winans and he arranges backing vocals for some songs.

The next album, Dance with my father, was released in 2003 to much media fanfare. Vandross wrote and produced most of the songs on this album, surrounding himself with hip-hop and rap stars such as Foxy Brown, Busta Rhymes and Queen Latifah. This album is the occasion for Vandross to receive four "Grammys": "Dance with my father" is song of the year and best R&B song, "The closer I get to you" is best R&B duo and the album is best R&B album.

In October of the same year he released the live album Live 2003 at Radio City music hall. It is his last album before his death in July 2005 following a myocardial infarction.


  1. Luther Vandross
  2. Luther Vandross
  3. ^ Barker, Andrew (June 3, 2014). "Luther Vandross Receives Star on Walk of Fame". Variety. Retrieved September 20, 2014.
  4. ^ "The 200 Greatest Singers of All Time". Rolling Stone. January 1, 2023. Retrieved August 19, 2023.
  5. ^ "The 35 Greatest R&B Artists of All Time". Billboard. November 12, 2015. Retrieved September 6, 2023.
  6. (en) « Center Stage: Luther Vandross », Ebony, vol. LIX, no 6,‎ avril 2004, p. 22 (ISSN 0012-9011, lire en ligne).
  7. (en) Colin Larkin (dir.), The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Oxford University Press, 2009, 4e éd. (ISBN 978-0-1953-1373-4), « Vandross, Luther »
  8. «Luther Vandross Receives Star on Walk of Fame». Vaeriety. 3 de junio de 2014. Consultado el 19 de marzo de 2023.
  9. «Luther Vandross». Grammys. Consultado el 19 de marzo de 2023.
  10. «The real tragedy in Patti LaBelle’s outing of Luther Vandross - theGrio». 9 de diciembre de 2017.
  11. ^ Vandross' Funeral Soulful and Powerful, in Yahoo! News, 8 luglio 2005. URL consultato il 2 dicembre 2006 (archiviato dall'url originale il 10 luglio 2005).

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