(April 20, 1951 – July 1, 2005)
“The Velvet Voice” in reference to his exceptional vocal talent, and was sometimes called “The Best Voice of a Generation Known as the Voice that wooed women he was an American singer-songwriter and record producer. Throughout his career, in was an in demand background vocalist for several different artists including Chaka Khan, Bette Midler, Diana Ross, David Bowie, Barbra Streisand, and Donna Summer. He later became the lead singer of the group Change which released its certified gold debut album, The Glow of Love, in 1980 on Warner Bros. Records. After he left the group, he was signed to Epic Records as a solo artist and released his debut solo album, Never Too Much in 1981. The album became a mega hit with R&B.
His hit songs include, “Never Too Much”, “Here and Now”, “Any Love”, “Power of Love /LovePower”, “I Can Make It Better” and “For You to Love”. Many of his songs were covers of original music by other artists such as “If This World Were Mine” (duet with Cheryl Lynn), “Since I Lost My Baby”, “Superstar” and “Always and Forever”. Duets such as “The Closer I Get to You” with Beyoncé, “Endless Love” with Mariah Carey and “The Best Things in Life Are Free” with Janet Jackson were all hits in his career.
During his career, Vandross sold over 25 million recordsworldwide and received eight Grammy Awards. Including. He won four Grammy Awards in 2004 including the Grammy Award for Song of the Year for a song recorded not long before his death, “Dance with My Father”.
Luther Vandross suffered from diabetes and hypertension, both of which may have been hereditary as well as lifestyle and nutrition. He had just finished the final vocals for the album Dance with My Father in 2003, on which he collaborated with pop rock artist Richard Marx, when on April 16, 2003 he suffered a severe stroke in his home in New York City. The stroke left him in a coma for nearly two months, during which time he also had to fight both meningitis and pneumonia which required the doctors to proceed with a tracheotomy while he was in coma. The stroke also left Vandross with noticeable difficulty speaking and singing, as well as confinement to a wheelchair.
He appeared briefly on videotape at the 2004 Grammy Awardsto accept his Song of the Year Award for “Dance With My Father”. In addition to thanking his fans for their support throughout his ordeal and recovery, he said, “When I say goodbye it’s never for long, because I believe in the power of love”. Following an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show he was never seen in public again.
Luther Vandross died on July 1, 2005 at John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Edison, New Jersey at the age of 54. His apparent cause of death was cardiac arrest.
After two days of viewing at the Frank E. Campbell Chapel. His funeral was held at the Riverside Church in New York City on July 8, 2005. He was laid to rest at George Washington Memorial Park in Paramus New Jersey. Much of Vandross’ estate was left to his godson Mark West. Luther Vandross had no children and his three older siblings died before him. He was survived by his mother, Mary Ida, who passed away in 2008.