This Weeks Featured Artist is:

 Luther Vandross

 

He was the heartbeat of R&B during the 1980s and 1990s, yet led a productive singing and songwriting life prior to this preeminence. The soul balladeer's strong commitment to the art of music continued on its Grammy-winning course even after an acute stroke in 2003 left him severely incapacitated and unable to continue public appearances. Luther Ronzoni Vandross was born in New York in 1951, the baby of four children. His father, also named Luther, was an upholsterer who died of diabetes when the singer was just 8. Despite this sadness, his mother, a practical nurse, made sure that music was prevalent in the Vandross household, particularly gospel, soul and doo-wop. Luther was influenced by older sister Patricia, who became a member of a doo-wop group called The Crests, and scored with "16 Candles," a 1958 hit. In high school Luther formed his own musical group and first started to write and compose. His first big songwriting break came with "Everybody Rejoice (Can You Feel a Brand New Day)" which was used for the Broadway stage and film productions of "The Wiz." He also sang in the film's choir selections. In the 1970s, while still working his way up, Luther voiced commercial jingles (Kentucky Fried Chicken) and provided backup vocals on tour and in session work for such notables as David Bowie, Chaka Khan, Barbra Streisand, Carly Simon, Bette Midler and Donna Summer. After performing with a short-lived singing group called Luther, which was formed to include the talented musicians Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, who later formed the group Chic, Luther returned to the background and took part in various projects for Quincy Jones and others.

Insisting on creative control, Luther had a difficult time finding the right contract for himself in record-making. At age 30 he finally recorded his first solo album with the No. 1 R&B and "Top 20" pop chartmaker "Never Too Much." He continued steadily with such albums as "Forever, for Always, for Love" in 1982 and "Give Me the Reasons" (1986), but it wasn't until 1989 that he had his first "Top 10" single with "Here and Now" (No. 6) which finally placed him securely on the love song pedestal. Such other No. 1 R&B singles would include "Stop to Love," "There's Nothing Better than Love" and "Any Love." A minimalist stylist whose eloquent, velvety renditions were accentuated by spot-on phrasing and effortless vocal control, his image quickly led to such unwelcome sobriquets as "master of bedroom music" and the restrictive label of being a "ladies only" act. He was also besieged by a wealth of other personal and health problems. A binge eater, his weight fluctuated throughout his career with his 6' 3" frame handling a diversity of 190 to 340 pounds at various stages, aggravated by constant career pressures and a roller coaster personal and romantic life. The never-married crooner was besieged by persistent reports that he was gay (he never denied or acknowledged the reports), rumors that threatened his ladies' man career. Moreover, Luther suffered from a mild form of diabetes, the disease that took the life of his father. In 1986, he was the driver in a 1986 car crash that killed one passenger (a close friend) with a charge of vehicular manslaughter finally reduced to reckless driving (speeding). The 1990s seemed, career-wise, stronger than ever again with a Top 40 hit dueting with Mariah Carey in 1994 on "My Endless Love" and the release of his No. 1 R&B signature version of "Always and Forever" (1994). He also made his motion picture debut with Robert Townsend's The Meteor Man (1993). Throughout his career Luther continued to write and produce for other artists including Whitney Houston, Dionne Warwick, Teddy Pendergrass, Cheryl Lynn and Aretha Franklin. Following his massive April 2003 stroke, he made a phantom return to the spotlight with the release of his 2003 CD "Dance With My Father," which was recorded prior to his illness. At the awards show, the absent Luther was rewarded with four Grammys, including song of the year. The success also gave him his first No. 1 album on the pop chart and four NAACP Image Awards. The beloved 54-year-old musician died at JFK Medical Center in Edision, New Jersey, of his lingering complications and was survived by his Evangelist mother Mary Ida Vandross, who was instrumental in promoting her son's last work to Grammy glory following his severe debilitation.

IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Trivia

Was discovered by David Bowie, who overheard Luther singing to his song "Young Americans". Bowie put Luther on the recording of the song.

When Vandross was born, the doctor asked his mother what the child's first and middle names were. She had already picked Luther for a first name but hadn't thought of a middle name; there happened to be a box of Ronzoni spaghetti on the table next to her bed, so she told the doctor that his middle name was Ronzoni, and that is the name on his birth certificate.

Luther's mother almost didn't give birth to him. She had a ruptured appendix and was rushed to the hospital. When the doctor asked his father which one of them to save, he told the doctor to save his wife. Fortunately, she came through the operation successfully and Luther was born, prematurely, but healthy.

Mother's name is Mary.

April 16, 2003, hesuffered a stroke in his Manhattan home which left him semi-conscious. Shortly after the stroke, he developed pneumonia, which necessitated a tracheotomy to help him breathe.

June 12, 2003 Luther Vandross was moved from ICU and upgraded to stable condition.

June 10, 2003, Luther's CD "Dance With My Father" is released. It was dedicated to his father, Luther Vandross Sr., who died of complications of diabetes when Vandross was five years old.

June 5, 2003 Luther emerged from his coma as a result of suffering a stroke, April 16, 2003.

Is the youngest child of four children.

June 19, 2003 Luther's CD debuts at #1 on the Billboard 200, selling over 442,000 copies.

Was released from the hospital after having a stroke April 16, 2003 and underwent therapy.

Sang background vocals for Richard Marx and Chaka Khan.

Due to the stroke he suffered, resulting in a coma, he was unable to record a music video for "Dance with my Father Again," so instead, R&B artists came together to create a 'get well card' as his music video.

Close friends included Patti LaBelle and Aretha Franklin.

Suffered from high pressure, obesity and diabetes.

When his mother was pregnant with him, she had a constant yen for pasta, but only for one brand, Ronzoni. When Luther was born, she gave him the middle name of Ronzoni.

Craig Seymour's 2004 biography, "Luther: The Life and Longing of Luther Vandross" picks at the acclaimed singer's romantic leanings and takes the assumption that Luther was gay.

The youngest of all his siblings, he was also the last one to die. His mother out-lived all of her children.

Graduated from William Howard Taft High School in Bronx, New York

 

Personal Quotes

"It was the women [Dionne Warwick, Aretha Franklin, The Supremes] who drove me to the stereo. Men feel they have something to prove. They don't trust their automatic pilot chops. Females do. They go on deeper dramatic trips, take more chances. Put it out there with greater flair."

(Courtesy of IMDB.com)