Luther Ronzoni Vandross was born on April 20, 1951. The American born singer-songwriter and record producer was known for his sensual vocals. During his career, Vandross sold over twenty-five million albums and won eight Grammy Awards including Best Male R&B Vocal Performance four times. He won four Grammy Awards in 2004 including the Grammy Award for Song of the Year for the track ”Dance with My Father”, co-written with Richard Marx.
He was the fourth child and second son to Mary Ida Vandross and Luther Vandross, Sr. Born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York City in the NYCHA Alfred E. Smith Houses public housing development, Vandross began playing the piano at the age of three. He grew up in a musical family that moved to the Bronx when he was thirteen. His sister, Patricia, sang with the vocal group The Crests, who had a number two hit in 1958 with “16 Candles”, though she left the group before the recording. Luther Vandross was in a high school group, Shades of Jade, that once played at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. He was also a member of a theater workshop, “Listen My Brother” who released the singles “Only Love Can Make a Better World” and “Listen My Brother”, and appeared on the second and fifth episodes of Sesame Street in November 1969.
Vandross attended Western Michigan University for a year before dropping out to continue pursuing a career in music. Luther also sang on Delores Hall‘s Hall-Mark album from 1973. He sang with her on the song “Who’s Gonna Make It Easier for Me”, which he wrote. He also contributed another song, “In This Lonely Hour.” Having co-written “Fascination” for David Bowie‘s Young Americans, he went on to tour with him as a back-up vocalist in September 1974. Vandross wrote “Everybody Rejoice” for the 1975 Broadway musical The Wiz and appeared as a choir member in the movie.
Vandross also sang backing vocals for Diana Ross, Roberta Flack, Gary Glitter, Carly Simon, Chaka Khan, Todd Rundgren’s Utopia, Donna Summer, Bette Midler, Chic, and Barbra Streisand. Vandross got his big break and decided to sign a contract with Epic Records in 1981. The song “Never Too Much”, written by himself, reached number-one on the R&B charts. During the 1980s, Vandross had two singles that reached #1 on the Billboard R&B charts: “Stop to Love”, in 1986, and a duet with Gregory Hines—”There’s Nothing Better Than Love.” Luther also sings background in Stevie Wonder‘s 1985 hit “Part Time Lovers”.
In 2003, Vandross released the album Dance With My Father. The title track, which was dedicated to Vandross’ memory childhood dances with his father, won Luther and his co-writer, Richard Marx, the 2004 Grammy Award for Song of the Year. The song also won Vandross his fourth and final award in the Best Male R&B Vocal Performance category. The album was his first to reach number one on the Billboard album chart. The video for the title track features various celebrities alongside their fathers and other family members. The 2nd single released from that album, “Think About You” was the Number One Urban Adult Contemporary Song of 2004 according to Radio & Records.
Vandross suffered from diabetes and hypertension, both of which ran in his family.Vandross died on July 1, 2005 at John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Edison, New Jersey at the age of 54. The apparent cause of his death was a heart attack.
In 2008, Vandross was ranked #54 on Rolling Stone magazine’s List of 100 Greatest Singers of All Time
Happy birthday Luther!