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Luther Vandross: Voice Of An Era   Print 
Tuesday, 05 July 2005

Luther Vandrossby Ifè Oshun

It was the end of an era when the great Luther Vandross passed away on Friday, July 1, 2005. The man whose voice was such a natural phenomenon fans lovingly referred to him by just his first name, possessed a voice that was unique silk, moving melody and timeless class.

With a crystal clear tone and passionately unique delivery, Luther will also be remembered for the sheer dignity with which he brought to his 14 platinum albums and more than 25 million sold records.

LL Cool J called him "the Frank Sinatra of black music. On a different level, obviously, but he is a spectacular and special artist and with such a spectacular voice. He's the heart and soul of any black record listener who's 25 and up — he's amazing."

"He was not only one of the greatest voices of all time, but his influence as a peerless soul creative force was second to none," J Records' Clive Davis said in a statement. 

"I'm happy to say I can call him my friend," said a shocked Alicia Keys to MTV. "I think he's such a wonderful man that's left behind such a beautiful legacy. That's something that will truly inspire generations to come."

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During the course of his four decade-long career, Luther continued to maintain a standard of excellence which would be imitated by, and sought after, by a generation of young performers.

Many artists inspired by him included R&B singer Jaheim, who said, "Luther was my idol. I can't believe he's gone. The first songs I ever learned were Luther's, and I got my (record) deal singing three of his hits. Luther Vandross is music to me. There will never be another voice like his."

Luther vandrossNo thong songs, or pelvic gyrating here. Luther was always and forever a gentleman, even as he influenced couples worldwide to make babies, and ladies to shiver from his suggestive, signature stuttered vowel sounds.

His songs were synonymous with romance. So much so, P. Diddy once persuaded Luther to sing to then-girlfriend Jennifer Lopez for Valentine's Day. His song "Here And Now" is recognized as the most popular wedding song in the U.S.

Many who were pulling for Luther to recover after his 2003 stroke were shocked and saddened by his loss.

Just hours after hearing about his passing, icon-in-the-making John Legend paid homage to Luther onstage at the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans: "All us people making slow jams now, we was inspired by the slow jams Luther Vandross was making."

"It's definitely a tremendous loss," said romance newjack Joe. "Luther was one of the greatest singers. Being a male singer myself, I took inspiration from Luther. His beautiful tone and his full, round tenor have always inspired me."

For the hip-hop generation, he was a money-making example that you didn't have to be a thug to get love. Always dressed in a tux, Luther was the epitome of classic.

Daron of 112 credits the Vandross/ Gregory Hines duet "There's Nothing Better Than Love" as the first song he ever performed in a talent show. 

"Truly the music industry along with the rest of the world has lost an icon — one of the greatest voices of our time," said 112 in a statement. "He was an inspiration to 112 and he'll never know the extent of how much his music influenced our lives. Rather than mourn his death, we celebrate his life and the gift of song that he gave us. We love you and we'll miss you, Luther." 

The one singer who's been compared to the iconic balladeer the most in the past few years, Ruben Studdard had this to say:  "Luther was a big influence on me. I'm blessed to be able to have seen him do his thing and have him influence me musically. I love him. He has been and continues to be a great inspiration to me. He will be truly missed."

Already a superstar in the world of R&B by the 80's, Luther didn't enjoy crossover success until later in his career. Even so, he always stuck to what was tried and true, his own natural charm and irresistible talent. He was always simply, elegantly himself.

"I didn't buy blond wigs; I didn't walk differently," he said in 1995. "One of the things I admire most about, let's say, Aretha, is that she got crossover success based on her own terms, own talent, own approach." 

"He was one of the greatest voices that ever sang a song," fellow icon Patti LaBelle said. "He was one of the sweetest men I have ever known. And he was one of the best friends I have ever had. I'm so happy that his legacy will live on forever. ... Luther was one of a kind and will never be forgotten. I miss him more than words could ever say."

Luther vandross

No one could master other people's songs like Luther. As previously reported, he was one of the few artists who could get away with covering classic songs and making them, arguably, better. Such covers include Friends Of Distinction's "Going In Circles," the Carpenters' "Superstar/Until You Come Back To Me (That's What I'm Going To Do)," Dionne Warwick's "Anyone Who Had A Heart," Little Anthony and the Imperials' "Goin' Out Of My Head," Major Harris' "Love Won't Let Me Wait," both Stevie Wonder's "Creepin'" and "Knocks Me Off My Feet," plus a number of additional timeless interpretations. So expertly did he render these and his signature cut "A House Is Not A Home," (also originally a Dionne Warwick jam), many younger fans had no clue he wasn't the original artist. Even so, many who did know still professed their favorite version to be Luther's.

And now Luther will be the one to be covered.

A tribute album is being produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and will feature Studdard, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Celine Dion, Fantasia and Angie Stone and others doing versions of Vandross' many hits. No release date has been set.

A wake will be held tomorrow (July 6) and Thursday, at Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel (1076 Madison Avenue), with public viewings scheduled 4-9 p.m. each day.   

A funeral will be held Friday (July 8) at New York's Riverside Church (490 Riverside Drive) at noon.

RIP Luther Ronzoni Vandross. We will always love, remember and celebrate  you.

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Last Updated ( Thursday, 07 July 2005 )


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