Luther Vandross 1951-2005
I was shocked and saddened when I heard the news of Luther Vandross' death today at age 54. I was driving and the announcement came over the radio and I got chills all over my body. I have chills as I'm writing this now. He was such a gifted singer.
I'll never forget the first time I really became aware of how great he was. I was driving home on the Sunset Strip on a Saturday night in 1984 and I had KJLH (Stevie Wonder's radio station) tuned in and I heard this rendition of "Superstar" that floored me. It then melded into "Until You Come Back To Me" and the medley reminded me of Barbra's "One Less Bell To Answer/A House Is Not A Home" (the latter was also recorded by Vandross). I went out the next day and bought his album and have been buying them ever since. His last album, 2003's Dance With My Father was so incredibly touching, it earned him four Grammy Awards. Vandross has won a total of eight Grammy Awards.
I just finished reading his obituary, and a portion of it read - Vandross' sound was so unusual few tried to copy it; even fewer could. "I'm proud of that - it's one of the things that I'm most proud of," he told The Associated Press in a 2001 interview. "I was never compared to anyone in terms of sound." He was a true original.
Another portion read Jeff O'Conner (his publicist) said he received condolence calls Friday from music luminaries such as Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones.
Singer Roberta Flack, on tour in Japan, said she was mourning the loss of her friend of more than 20 years.
"He was a musician who couldn't help but give you all he had," she said by telephone. "He was the kind of guy who was born to do what he did musically and let the world know about it. He was not born to keep it smothered in the chest."
Vandross also did backup vocals for Donna Summer and Barbra Streisand before breaking out on his own.
This is a sad, sad time for me and everybody who loved his musical genius. He was a man that sang with such warmth and emotion. He will be sorely missed.
May he rest in peace.