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Music Storytellers - LUTHER VANDROSS
Music Storytellers - LUTHER VANDROSS Photo

ALBUMS:
* 1981            Never Too Much
* 1982            Forever, For Always, For Love
* 1983            Busy Body
* 1985            The Night I Fell in Love
* 1986            Give Me the Reason
* 1988            Any Love
* 1991            Power of Love
* 1993            Never Let Me Go
* 1994            Songs
* 1996            Your Secret Love
* 1998            I Know
* 2001            Luther Vandross
* 2003            Dance with My Father

Luther Vandross - 

Luther Vandross was one of the most successful R&B artists of the 1980s and '90s. Not only did he score a series of multi-million-selling albums containing chart-topping hit singles and perform sold-out tours of the U.S. and around the world, but he also took charge of his music creatively, writing or co-writing most of his songs and arranging and producing his records. He also performed these functions for other artists, providing them with hits as well. He was, however, equally well known for his distinctive interpretations of classic pop and R&B songs, reflecting his knowledge and appreciation of the popular music of his youth. Possessed of a smooth, versatile tenor voice, he charmed millions with his romantic music.
 
Vandross was born in New York City on April 20, 1951, and grew up in the Alfred E. Smith housing projects in lower Manhattan. Both of his parents, Luther Vandross, Sr., an upholsterer, and Mary Ida Vandross, a nurse, sang, and they encouraged their children to pursue music as a career. Vandross Sr.'s older sister Patricia Van Dross was an early member of the Crests in the mid-'50s (appearing on their early singles, but leaving before they achieved success with "Sixteen Candles"), and Vandross himself began playing the piano at the age of three and took lessons at five, although he remained a largely self-taught musician. After the death of his father in 1959 when he was eight years old, he was raised by his mother, who moved the family to the Bronx. While attending William Howard Taft High School, he formed a vocal group, Shades of Jade, with friends Carlos AlomarRobin ClarkAnthony HintonDiane Sumler, and Fonzi Thornton. All five, along with 11 other teenage performers, were also part of a musical theater workshop, Listen, My Brother, organized by the Apollo Theater in Harlem that recorded a single, "Listen, My Brother"/"Only Love Can Make a Better World," and appeared on the initial episodes of the children's television series Sesame Street in 1969. After graduating from high school that year, Vandross attended Western Michigan University, but dropped out after a year and returned home. He spent the next few years working at odd jobs while trying to break into the music business.

In 1973, Vandross got two of his compositions, "In This Lovely Hour" and "Who's Gonna Make It Easier for Me," recorded by Delores Hall on her album Hall-Mark, singing the latter song with her as a duet. In 1974, though uncredited, he sang background vocals on Maggie Bell's Queen of the Night, and in August of the same year Carlos Alomar, who had become David Bowie's guitarist, invited him to attend a Bowierecording session at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia. He quickly became more than an observer, singing background vocals, serving as a vocal arranger, and co-writing the song "Fascination" with Bowie. The session resulted in the album Young Americans, released in March 1975, and Vandross also went on tour with Bowie in September 1974 as both backup singer and opening act. Meanwhile, Vandross' 1972 composition "Everybody Rejoice (A Brand New Day)" was featured in the Broadway musical The Wiz, which opened a run of 1,672 performances on January 5, 1975. (It was later made into a 1978 film.) The show starred Stephanie Mills, who used Vandross as a background singer on her 1975 album Movin' in the Right Direction. (He also sang, uncredited, on Gary Glitter's self-titled 1975 album.)

Through BowieVandross met Bette Midler, who hired him to arrange vocals for her Broadway revue Bette Midler's Clams on the Half Shell, which played ten weeks at the Minskoff Theater starting on April 14, 1975. Midler also introduced him to her record producer, Arif Mardin, at Atlantic Records, and Vandross began to get steady work as a background singer and vocal arranger. In 1976, he appeared on albums by Midler (Songs for the New Depression), the Brecker Brothers Band(Back to Back), Roy Buchanan (A Street Called Straight), Andy Pratt(Resolution), and Judy Collins (Bread and Roses). He also put together a vocal quintet called Luther, consisting of himself, former Shades of Jade members Anthony Hinton and Diane SumlerTheresa V. Reed, and Christine Wiltshire, which signed to Atlantic's Cotillion Records subsidiary. Their self-titled debut album was released in June 1976. It did not sell well enough to reach the charts, but the tracks "It's Good for the Soul," "Funky Music (Is a Part of Me)," and "The Second Time Around" reached the R&B Top 40. Reed and Wiltshire dropped out, and the remaining trio made a second Luther album, This Close to You (April 1977), with Vandross given top billing, while Hinton and Sumler were credited as featured soloists. The title song reached the R&B charts, but that wasn't enough to keep Cotillion from dropping the group, which then broke up. (Vandross acquired the rights to the Luther recordings and saw to it that they remained out of print.)

Meanwhile, Vandross continued doing sessions. In 1977, he appeared on albums by Nils Lofgren (I Came to Dance), Geils (aka the J. Geils BandMonkey Island), the Average White Band and Ben E. King(Benny and Us), Andy Pratt (Shiver in the Night), Ringo Starr (Ringo the 4th), and Chic (Chic). He also entered the lucrative world of writing and singing commercial jingles, and before long was the musical voice of everything from telephones, fast food, and beverages to various branches of the U.S. military on radio and television. And the recording sessions continued. In 1978, he appeared on albums by Garland Jeffreys (One Eyed Jack), Carly Simon (Boys in the Trees), Roy Buchanan (You're Not Alone), Quincy Jones (Sounds...and Stuff Like That!!), Norma Jean (Norma Jean), T. Life (That's Life), Roberta Flack (Roberta Flack), Odyssey (Hollywood Party Tonight), the soundtrack to the movie version of The Wiz, Chic (C'est Chic), Cat Stevens (Back to Earth), David Spinozza (Spinozza), Carole Bayer Sager (Too), Sean Delaney (Highway), the Good Vibrations (I Get Around), and Lemon (Lemon). And he was the uncredited lead singer on the song "Get on Up (Get on Down)," by Roundtree, an R&B chart entry that fall.

Vandross began to gain greater attention in 1979. During the year, he appeared on albums by Sister Sledge (We Are Family), the Average White Band (Feel No Fret), Chic (Risqué), Bette Midler (Thighs and Whispers), Jay Hoggard (Days Like These), Revelation (Get in Touch),John Tropea (To Touch You Again), the Charlie Calello Orchestra(Calello Serenade), Charme (Let It In), Cher (Prisoner), Roberta Flack(Featuring Donny Hathaway), Delores Hall (Delores Hall, Evelyn "Champagne" King (Music Box), Ben Sidran (The Cat and the Hat), and Soirée (Soirée), and on the soundtracks to the films Sunnyside and The Warriors. Especially on the jazz and disco recordings, he was just as likely to be a featured vocalist as a background singer. And he got a prominent credit when he arranged the background vocals for Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer's duet "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)," which became a number one pop hit in November 1979. He gained even more recognition in 1980, a year in which he appeared on studio albums by Chaka Khan (Naughty), Melba Moore (Closer), Mtume (In Search of the Rainbow Seekers), Dave Valentin (Land of the Third Eye), the Brecker Brothers (Detente), Terumasa Hino (Daydream), Cissy Houston (Step Aside for a Lady), Jimmy Maelen (Beats Workin'), the Jess Roden Band (Stonechaser), and the Michael Zager Band (Zager), as well as live albums by Bette Midler (Divine Madness) and the duo of Roberta Flack and Peabo Bryson (Live & More), and on the soundtrack to the film Fame. But the most important credit for him that year was his work as lead vocalist of the studio group Change. He sang on the band's tracks "Searching," a Top 40 R&B hit, and "The Glow of Love," which also reached the R&B charts, and his name was listed prominently on the discs. This increased his profile even more, and he began circulating a demo tape to recording companies, seeking a solo deal that would allow him to write and produce his own records. On April 21, 1981, he signed with the Epic Records subsidiary of the major label CBS Records.

Vandross immediately began work on his debut album, cutting down on sideman sessions, although during 1981 he appeared on albums by Bob James (All Around the Town), Bernard Wright ('Nard), Change (Miracles), the J. Geils Band (Freeze Frame), Hi Gloss (You'll Never Know), the Brooklyn, Bronx & Queens Band (The Brooklyn, Bronx & Queens Band), Stephanie Mills (Stephanie), and the Spinners (Can't Shake This Feelin'), and in June 1981 his composition "You Stopped Loving Me" was sung by Roberta Flack, with him arranging and singing background vocals, on the soundtrack to the film Bustin' Loose and became a Top 40 R&B hit for her. (Damaris revived the song for an R&B chart entry in 1984.) Vandross' own version was included on his debut solo album, Never Too Much, released in August. The LP was a tour de force for him; he produced it and wrote six of its seven songs, the exception being a cover of Burt Bacharach and Hal David's Dionne Warwick hit "A House Is Not a Home." Vandross expressed his musical vision on Never Too Much, and that vision was of a smooth neo-soul style that recalled the pop/R&B of his youth, particularly the music of such predecessors as WarwickAretha Franklin, the softer Motown artists, like Smokey Robinson, and some of the girl groups of the early '60s, such as the Shirelles.
 
To those influences, Vandross added some contemporary elements of jazz and disco. But his approach was steeped in tradition; he was a stylist, harking back to the past, yet pointing to a possible post-disco future for R&B music. And R&B fans responded warmly. The title song, "Never Too Much," topped the R&B charts; second single "Don't You Know That?" reached the R&B Top Ten; and third single "Sugar and Spice (I Found Me a Girl)" also charted R&B. The album hit number one R&B in November and was certified gold in December. (It went platinum five years later and double platinum in 1997.) But Vandross encountered more resistance in the pop realm, where the album reached only the Top 20 and the single "Never Too Much" only made the Top 40. Artistically and commercially, these results set a pattern for Vandross' career. Appearing regularly, his albums showed great consistency in style and content, even to the point of featuring a cover of a classic pop/R&B song on each disc. And while they also sold consistently to the R&B audience, they rarely received equal support from pop fans.

Having successfully launched his solo career, Vandross might have been expected to abandon session work; certainly, he had less time for it. But he still enjoyed working as a background singer, so he still did it selectively. In 1982, for example, he appeared on albums by Irene Cara(Anyone Can See), Michael Franks (Objects of Desire), Kleeer (Taste the Music), Bob James (Hands Down), Linda Clifford (I'll Keep on Loving You, and Ullanda McCullough (Watching Me, Watching You). At the same time, Vandross' demonstrated abilities as songwriter, producer, and vocal arranger opened up to him the opportunity to work in these capacities with some of the artists he had grown up idolizing, as well as his contemporaries. He first turned his attention to Cheryl Lynn, producing her R&B Top Ten albumInstant Love (June 1982); writing the title song, which became a Top 20 R&B hit; and singing a duet with her on a revival of the 1968 Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell hit "If This World Were Mine," which reached the R&B Top Five. ("Look Before You Leap," from the album, also made the R&B charts.)

Next, he turned to Aretha Franklin, producing her July 1982 LP Jump to It, and writing or co-writing four of its eight songs, including the title track, an R&B number one; "Love Me Right," which went Top 40 R&B; and "This Is for Real," an R&B chart entry. Topping the R&B chart, it was her first gold album in six years. He also sang on Diana Ross' October 1982 LP Silk Electric. Somehow, he found time to make his second solo album, Forever, for Always, for Love, released in September, again serving as his own producer and writing or co-writing all the tracks except for covers of Smokey Robinson's 1965 hit for the Temptations "Since I Lost My Baby" and, in a medley with his own "Bad Boy," Sam Cooke's "Having a Party." Vandross' co-writers on some of the songs were bassist Marcus Miller and keyboard player Nat Adderley, Jr. (a former member of Listen, My Brother), musical associates who would work with him throughout his career. A musical complement to Never Too Much,Forever, for Always, for Love was another R&B chart-topper for Vandross, throwing off three singles, the Top Five "Bad Boy/Having a Party," the Top 20 "Since I Lost My Baby," and the chart entry "Promise Me." That, of course, was as far as the R&B charts were concerned. On the pop side, the album went Top 20 and only "Bad Boy/Having a Party" charted. Nevertheless, the LP was certified gold in two months and platinum in six.

Vandross' multiple career tracks continued apace in 1983. He sang on albums by David Sanborn (Backstreet), James Ingram (It's Your Night), former Shades of Jade member Fonzi Thornton (The Leader),Linda Lewis (A Tear and a Smile), Stephanie Mills (Merciless), andBetty Wright (Back at You). He produced Aretha Franklin's next album, Get It Right, composing the title song, which hit number one R&B, with Marcus Miller, and its follow-up, "Every Girl (Wants My Guy)," a Top Ten R&B hit. Then, he turned to another idol of his youth,Dionne Warwick, producing her album How Many Times Can We Say Goodbye. He and Warwick sang the title song as a duet that became her first R&B Top Ten hit in eight years; it also made the pop Top 40. "Got a Date," the Vandross/Miller composition released as a second single from the album, also made the R&B charts. And, although it took until December, Vandross managed to come up with his third solo album, the aptly titled Busy Body. On this album, he co-produced several of the tracks with Miller, also writing most of the material with  | Closed on 06/09/13 at 05:00PM
FanIQ Pts? No |
Locker Room, Music | Multiple Choice Opinion Poll
9 Fans 
56%a. 10 (Great Artist)
0%b. 7-9 (Good Stuff)
33%c. 5-6 (I like a few songs)
0%d. 1-4 (No Interest / Never heard of him)
11%e. KEVIN'S CHOICE!

 &nbp;
TOP COMMENT * * * * * * * * * * * *
#1 | 342 days ago

mmmhmmmmmheartheartheart
he makes me 
10 (Great Artist)  
  
8 Comments | Sorted by Most Recent First | Red = You Disagreed
Vote for your favorite comments. Fans decide the Top Comment (3+ votes) and also hide poor quality comments (4+ votes).
#1 | 342 days ago

mmmhmmmmmheartheartheart
he makes me 
10 (Great Artist)  
#2 | 342 days ago

Really began paying more attention to him after the illness he was suffering from was brought to the forefront.  I believe he suffered so much pain, and yet always had a smile on his face.
5-6 (I like a few songs)  
#3 | 342 days ago

This pretty much sums it up   (caution, R-RATED due to language)
5-6 (I like a few songs)  
#4 | 342 days ago

He had a gifted voice, it's a shame he died.
5-6 (I like a few songs)  
#5 | 338 days ago

amazing voice.

Here and Now is my (non-existent, never happening) wedding song.
10 (Great Artist)  
#6 | 338 days ago

At least his songs and teachings will live on forever with his followers in the Lutheran Church
#7 | 337 days ago

he is the mansmiley
#8 | 337 days ago

Be still my heart      ...yes heart
10 (Great Artist)  

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