Luther Vandross was a singer-songwriter and record producer. He started his career as an in-demand background vocalist for several well-known singers such as Diana Ross, Chaka Khan, Donna Summer, David Bowie, Judy Collins, and Ben E. King. He later started his own career which proved to be a successful one because he was able to create several hit songs and won eight Grammy Awards. In this article, we are going to know more about Luther Vandross and his contributions to the music industry.
Luther Ronzoni Vandross Jr. was born on April 20, 1951, at Kips Bay, Manhattan, New York City. His father, Luther Vandross was a singer and upholsterer and his mother, Mary Ida Vandross was a nurse. Luther’s father died of diabetes when he was just eight years old. He wrote the song “Dance with My Father” in 2003 and dedicated it to his father. The song was based on his childhood memories and his mother’s recollections of the singing and dancing the family did in the house. Luther Vandross attended Western Michigan University for a year before he dropped out to pursue his music career.
While Luther Vandross was in high school he founded the first Patti LaBelle fan club. He also performed in a group called Shades of Jade and they once played at the Apollo Theater. During Vandross’ early years in the entertainment business, he performed several times at the Apollo’s famous amateur night.
In 1972, he added backing vocals to Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway and he also worked on Delores Hall’s Hallmark album the following year. Vandross also sang back-up vocals for several artists such as Carly Simon, Barbara Streisand, Ben E. King, Chaka Khan, Roberta Flack, Bette Midler, and Donna Summer. He also wrote and sang commercial jingles for different companies including Mountain Dew, NBC, Burger King, Juicy Fruit, and Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Vandross made his career breakthrough as a featured singer in the dance act album Change which is a studio concept that was created by French-Italia businessman Jacques Fred Petrus. In 1981, Vandross signed a record deal with Epic Records and embarked on his solo career with the release of his debut album called Never Too Much and its title track contained a version of the Dionne Warwick song A House is Not a Home.
During the 1980s, Luther Vandross released a series of successful R&B albums but still he continued his session work by being guest vocals on different groups like Charme in 1982. Most of the albums that Vandross released made a big impact on the R&B charts. in 1983, he produced his own album entitled Get It Right. That same year, he had the opportunity to work with his main musical influence, Dionne Warwick and it resulted in producing, singing, and writing songs on Dionne Warwick’s fourth album How Many Times Can We Say Goodbye.
In 1985, Luther Vandross had the chance to sing the ad-libs and background vocals for Stevie Wonder’s hit song Part-Time Lover. The next year, Vandross was hired to voice a cartoon character named Zack for the show Zack of all Trades which aired on ABC every Saturday morning.
In 1989, Luther Vandross released a compilation album entitled The Best of Luther Vandross… The Best of Love which featured the hit ballad single Here and Now. It was his first song to enter the Billboard pop chart top ten and in 1991, he won his first Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance.
He released more albums in the 1990s and it began with his 1991 album called Power of Love which spawned two top ten hits. Vandross also won his second Grammy Award in 1992 for Best Male R&B Vocal. His song Power of Love/Love Power also won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Song that same year. In 1994, Luther Vandross scored another top ten single when he teamed up with Mariah Carey on a cover version of Diana Ross and Lionel Richie’s song Endless Love. The song was included in his album entitled Songs which was a collection of songs that inspired Vandross’ throughout his career.
In 1997, he released another greatest hits album which is a collection of his 1990s hits songs and it was his final album that he released through Epic Records. After that, he signed with J Records and released his self-titled album in 2001 it spawned hit songs such as Take You Out and I’d Rather.
In 2002, he performed his final concerts during his BK Got Soul Tour which was his last tour. in 2003, he released his album called Dance With My Father which sold 442,000 copies on its first week and debuted at the top spot of the Billboard 200. The song won the Grammy Award for Song of the Year and it won Vandross his fourth Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. Dance With My Father was Vandross’ only album that reached the top spot on the Billboard chart.