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Luther Vandross Biography

Luther Vandross Biography
Luther Vandross Biography

Luther Ronzoni Vandross, born April 20, 1951 at Bellevue Hospital in NYC, was an American singer-songwriter and record producer. During his career, he would sell over twenty-five million albums, winning eight Grammy Awards which included Best Male R&B Vocal Performance and the Song of the Year single "Dance with My Father".

The fourth child and second son to Mary Ida Vandross and Luther Vandross, Sr., Luther grew up on the Lower East Side in the Alfred E. Smith Houses public housing development. Growing up in a musical family, he began playing the piano at the age of three. By the time he was eight, his father would die from diabetes, and at the age of thirteen, his family would move to the Bronx. He would become a member of a theater workshop, "Listen My Brother" who released the singles "Only Love Can Make a Better World" and "Listen My Brother", and appeared on the second and fifth episodes of Sesame Street in November 1969. He would also briefly attend Western Michigan University before dropping out to pursue a career in music.

Luther Vandross Shades of Jade
Luther Vandross Biography
During high school, he joined the group Shades of Jade, performing at the Apollo Theater. Signed to Cotillion Records, the group produced the singles "It's Good for the Soul", "Funky Music (Is a Part of Me)", and "The Second Time Around." While relatively successful, their two albums, the self-titled Luther (1976) and This Close to You (1977), didn't make the charts, and the group was eventually dropped from Cotillion. Luther would buy back the rights to these albums, preventing any re-release.

In addition to being the founder of the Patti LaBelle fan club, Luther would also contribute and/or sing back up vocals for such artists as Donna Summer, Bette Midler, David Bowie, Diana Ross, Roberta Flack, Gary Glitter, Carly Simon, Chaka Khan, Todd Rundgren's Utopia, Chic, Barbra Streisand, and David Bowie. He would also write "Everybody Rejoice" for the 1975 Broadway musical The Wiz, appearing as a choir member in the movie. He also wrote and sang commercial jingles during the late 1970s and early 1980s, and continued his successful career as a popular session singer during the late 1970s, subsequently getting a career breakthough during the 1980s.

Luther Vandross Glow of Love
Luther Vandross Biography
As a featured singer with the group Change, Luther saw his career begin to take off in the 1980s. Their hits, "A Lover's Holiday", "The Glow of Love" and "Searching", of which Vandross sang on all three, opened up doors. And there was no doubt about whether Vandross liked the song "The Glow of Love". In a 2001 interview with Vibe Magazine, he stated that "This is the most beautiful song I've ever sung in my life." He was also expected to be the featured singer on Change's second, and highly successful album "Miracles", but declined the offer due to the low pay. This decision led to him to accept a recording contract with Epic Records, but didn't stop him from doing some background vocals on the "Miracles" album. During that hectic year, Vandross would make another attempt at a solo career.

Luther's debut album, Never Too Much, with its hit title track which he wrote, also contained a version of the Burt Bacharach/Hal David song, "A House Is Not a Home". "Never Too Much" would reach number one on the R&B charts, marking the beginning of Luther's songwriting collaboration with bassist Marcus Miller, who played on many of the tracks and would also produce and co-produce a number of other tracks. The Never Too Much album was arranged by high school classmate Nat Adderley, Jr., a collaboration that would last through Vandross's career.

Luther Vandross Gregory Hines
Luther Vandross Biography
Luther Vandross would release a series of successful albums during the 1980s, while continuing session work with guest vocals on groups like Charme in 1982. Although the albums were successful overall, many of his earlier albums made a much bigger impact on the R&B charts than on the pop charts. During the 1980s, Vandross had two singles that reached #1 on the Billboard R&B charts: "Stop to Love" in 1986 and a duet with Gregory Hines entitled, "There's Nothing Better Than Love."

Luther would also be at the helm as producer for Aretha Franklin's Gold Certified, award-winning comeback album Jump to It. And 1983 provided an opportunity for him to work with Dionne Warwick, one of his musical influences. Luther would produce, write and sing songs on Dionne's fourth album, How Many Times Can We Say Goodbye. The title track duet reached #27 on the Hot 100 chart, while the second single, "Got a Date" was considered a moderate hit.

In 1985, Luther Vandross spotted the talent of 15 year old Jimmy Salvemini on Televisions Star Search program. He thought Salvemini had the perfect voice for some of his songs. He contacted Salvemini, who was managed by his brother Larry. A contract was negotiated with Elektra records and Luther agreed to produce the album. Luther even contacted old friends, Cheryl Lynn, Alfa Anderson (Chic), Phoebe Snow and Irene Cara. to appear on the album. After its completion, Luther, Jimmy, and Larry decided to celebrate. On January 12, 1986, while riding in Luther's convertible Mercedes, they were involved in an accident. All three were rushed to the hospital where Larry died during surgery. Initially supportive of Luther, the Salvemini family filed a wrongful death suit. Faced with vehicular manslaughter charges, Vandross would plead no contest to reckless driving, and settle out of court. The Album, "Roll With It" was released later that year.

Luther Vandross Here and Now
Luther Vandross Biography
In 1989, Luther's ballard, "Here and Now", would be his first single to chart in the Billboard's top ten, peaking at number six. More albums followed in the 1990s, including 1991's Power of Love which saw two top ten pop hits. He would go on to win his first Grammy award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance in 1991 and his second in 1992 with the track "Power of Love/Love Power" for Best R&B Song. In 1992, "The Best Things in Life Are Free", his duet with Janet Jackson from the movie, Mo' Money, also became a hit. In 1993, Luther would have a brief non-speaking role in Robert Townsend's movie, The Meteor Man.

Luther Vandross Endless Love
Luther Vandross Biography
In 1994, Luther would hit the top ten again with singer Mariah Carey, doing a version of Lionel Richie and Diana Ross's duet "Endless Love". He would also receive his third Best Male R&B Vocal award Grammy for the single, "Your Secret Love" in 1997. This year also saw the release of his second greatest hits album which compiled most of his 1990s hits. It would be his final album released through Epic Records.

Luther's Final Years

Luther Vandross Biography Sources

  1. Luther Vandross. (2011, August 5). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
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