Luther Vandross is one of the artists you’re likely to hear more than just one song from on THE BEAT.
Today we invite you back to 1987 for one of his 10 sold-out shows at Wembley Arena in the UK. This was actually broadcast on the BBC back then.
ABOUT LUTHER VANDROSS
Many moons ago in 1977, disco producer Gregg Diamond had a studio group known as “Bionic Boogie” where Luther Vandross’ lead vocals set the stage for an amazing career to follow. Bionic Boogie’s “Hot Butterfly” album featured some pretty big disco hits including “Risky Changes”, “Chains”, “Cream Always Rises To The Top”, “Dance Little Dreamer” and the rhythm-laced, disco-tinged “Papillon (A/K/A Hot Butterfly). Diamond was no stranger to an ear for talent or the ability to produce hit records as he produced his own “Starcruiser” in ’78 as well as the massive 1976 hit “More, More, More” by Andrea True Connection. How the two met makes sense when you figure in that Diamond’s brother Godfrey was David Bowie’s engineer for the “Young Americans” album. Luther’s voice was a natural fit for the track. The track has also been covered by many artists including Chaka Khan on her 1980 album “Naughty.”
Born Luther Ronzoni Vandross Jr. on April 20, 1951 in Manhattan, Luther Vandross began his career as a studio session singer/songwriter. He was also heard on a variety of commercials back then as a jingle singer for products such as Kentucky Friday Chicken, Mountain Dew, NBC, and more. He and Patti Austin were regulars on jingles back then and they’d wind up working together on Quincy Jones’ “Stuff Like That” album where he was featured on “I’m Gonna Miss You in The Morning”. Luther would tour as a background singer and arranger in the mid-’70s with many artists who had their own diverse styles of music including David Bowie, Bette Midler, Barbra Streisand, Donna Summer, Carly Simon, Judy Collins, J. Geils Band, Ben E. King, Ringo Starr, Chic and more. As a studio singer, he was heard on many tracks in the late ’70s including an uncredited appearance on UK soul band Charme’s cover of Toto’s 1978 debut track “Georgy Porgy” which featured Gong Show winner Cheryl Lynn’s vocals. Eventually, Luther would get credited for the vocals on that version a few years later when his star power was rising.
From Luther’s introduction to the world as a singer on the first season of PBS’s Sesame Street in 1969 to winning four Grammy Awards in 2004, this amazing talent was a permanent and dynamic force in popular music. He crossed boundaries, starting with his earliest success as a background vocalist to a producer for artists including Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, one of his own background singers, Lisa Fischer who had a hit in ’91 with “How Can I Ease The Pain” as well as Whitney Houston and others.
In 1980, Luther’s voice was front and center on Jacques Fred Petrus and Italian disco wiz kid producer Mauro Malavasi’s group known as “Change”. Signed to our good friend Ray Caviano’s Warner Bros/RFC Records, Change would rule the charts in 1980 with Luther’s voice front and center on “A Lovers Holiday”, “The Glow Of Love” and “Searchin”, all songs played here on The Beat Chicago’s radio station.
By 1981, Luther was ready to make a name for himself. His first album which featured hit after hit including “Never Too Much”, “Sugar And Spice”, “I’ve Been Workin'” and more was actually a demo. He had cut the demo as an album to shop to the labels. Epic Records thought it was so amazing (no pun intended on the title to one of his hit songs) that the label signed him and released the album as it was.
There’s a handful of voices in music that, when you hear them, you know who it is. When you hear Luther’s, you know – instantly, it’s him. That unmistakable voice is as recognizable as others we call on a first name basis like Bing, Elton, Frank, Teddy, Jeffery, Philip, Maurice, Billie, Ella, Michael, Marvin, Smokey, Aretha, Diana, Dionne, Whitney, and others. It’s a unique club to be part of that’s for sure.
Luther was a regular musical performer on the television shows Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show (Johnny Carson and Jay Leno), Rosie O’Donnell, The Arsenio Hall Show, Solid Gold, and Soul Train and was a common performer at Washington DC events in the 1990s, including The People’s Inaugural Celebration, A Gala for the President at Ford’s Theatre, Christmas In Washington and A Capitol Fourth. Luther also appeared on Hollywood Squares and Family Feud, and tried his hand at acting on TV’s In Living Color, 227, New York Undercover, Beverly Hills 90210 and Touched By An Angel and in the film The Meteor Man. Luther’s songs have appeared in a vast number of movies, and he contributed original songs for sixteen films, including Bustin’ Loose, The Goonies, Ruthless People, Made In Heaven, House Party, Hero, Money Train and Dr. Dolittle 2.
LUTHER VANDROSS CAREER ACHIEVEMENTS
From 1981 to 2005, Luther released eight #1 R&B albums, seven #1 R&B singles, five top 20 R&B singles
Luther crossed over to the pop charts with five top 10 Billboard singles, eight Top Ten Billboard albums including a #1 album in 2003 with “Dance With My Father.”
From 1981 to 1996, Luther released 11 consecutive platinum/double platinum album. At the time of his passing in 2005, 13 of Luther’s 14 studio albums had gone Platinum or multi-platinum.
During his career, Vandross sold over 40 million records worldwide
He was nominated thirty-one times for a Grammy-winning eight including Best Male R&B Vocal Performance four different times. He won a total of 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”. And if that wasn’t enough, he had won a plethora of other awards including
He won eight American Music Awards, including Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist seven times.
In March 1989, Luther Vandross was the first male artist to sell out 10 consecutive live shows at London’s Wembley Arena.
Luther wrote one of the climactic musical numbers (“Everybody Rejoice”) for the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical and Academy Award-nominated film The Wiz.
Luther had written “One Shining Moment” which CBS Sports used his rendition for their coverage of the 2003 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and would do so for years to come.
Luther performed the National Anthem at Super Bowl XXXI in January 1997 in New Orleans.
Throughout his distinguished career, Luther Vandross was active in charitable causes with the United Negro College Fund and the NY Chapter of the American Diabetes Association, in addition to performing at numerous charity concerts, most notably Michael Jackson’s Heal The World concerts in the 1990s. Luther also contributed “The Christmas Song” to the A Very Special Christmas 2 record released in 1992 to benefit the Special Olympics.
Luther Vandross was a musical master whose style has influenced an entire generation of today’s vocalists. His distinctive brand of satin-smooth vocal magic moved international audiences and continues to touch people to this day.
A wonderful man, a beautiful spirit, Luther suffered from diabetes and hypertension. On April 16, 2003 he had suffered a severe stroke at his home in NYC that put him in a coma for almost two months. The stroke affected his ability to speak or sing and required him to use a wheelchair. At the 2004 Grammy Awards, Vandross appeared in a pre-taped video segment to accept his Song of the Year Award for “Dance with My Father”, saying, “When I say goodbye it’s never for long because I believe in the power of love” (Vandross sang the last six words). His dear mother, Mary, accepted the award in person on his behalf. His last public appearance was on May 6, 2004 on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
Source: Luther Vandross and Sal Amato
LUTHER VANDROSS ONLINE
Classic Luther Vandross Music On Demand