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.
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'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 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 Biography Sources
|Funeral Guide||Find a Funeral Home||Send Flowers|