What can be said about the velvety voice of singer, songwriter Luther Vandross? Songs like “Never Too Much”, “Glow of Love”, “A House Is Not A Home”, “If This World Were Mine” and “Dance With My Father” are considered by many as timeless tunes that still live on to this day. Played at weddings, family gatherings or just cleaning up at home, Luther’s songs are consider the ultimate love songs even after his death in 2005.
Many don’t know but Luther got his big break from the late rock legend, David Bowie. Once again, it was his love of music that impressed Bowie.
“It was ’74. My friend Carlos, whom I had grown up with, got a job playing guitar for David Bowie,” explains Vandross. “Carlos invited me to the studio. He and his wife, Robin, had gotten married a couple of years before and he is also a singer. As a matter of fact, Robin is one of the girls with whom I used to sing in the hallway in high school with.”
“I stated making little vocal arrangements and showing them to Robin. I didn’t know that Bowie had overheard all this. He was sitting right behind me at the board, and he said, ‘That’s a great idea. Put that down.’ So I put it down and next thing you know one thing led to another, and I was doing the vocal arrangements for the whole album. I wrote one of the songs on the album. Bowie overheard it and said, ‘I want to record that. Do you mind?'”
“Bowie went back in the studio to add this song. After that addition, Bowie changed the name of that song, then the album was finished. From there, the invitation to join him in the studio and on tour came and the rest is history.”
After a few years with Bowie, Luther took a leap of faith and ventured out on his own with a group called Change. Then the famed singer went out on his own. But Luther’s success did not come without a price. The long nights and roads started to get to him. Luther dealt with his loneliness by eating, and his weight fluctuated between 190-340 pounds during his adult life. But no matter what size he was or what he may have been going through, Luther sang and spoke about using love to heal.
Vandross suffered from diabetes and hypertension, both of which may have been brought on by family genetics as well as lifestyle and nutrition. He had just finished the final vocals for the album Dance With My Father, when on April 16, 2003 he suffered a severe stroke at 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 a tracheotomy). The stroke also left Vandross with noticeable difficulty speaking and singing, as well as confinement to a wheelchair.
Vandross appeared briefly on videotape at the 2004 Grammy Awards to 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” (he sang the last six words). Following an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, he was never seen in public again. Vandross died on July 1, 2005 at the age of 54. The apparent cause of death was a heart attack.
“I sing about love, but I also sing about introspection and emotional status and the emotional journey that people go through during the course of a day and how it can affect you — all the decisions that you make for your life. It’s not…