Vandross, Luther (Ronzoni )
- Andrew Flory
(b New York, NY, April 20, 1951; d Edison, NJ, July 1, 2005). American rhythm-and-blues and pop singer, songwriter, and record producer. He was one of the most instantly recognizable African American male vocalists of the 1980s, often performing in a virtuosic style that was at once melismatic, improvisational, and precise. He began his career as a behind-the-scenes songwriter and vocalist, singing on commercial jingles, writing and collaborating on songs for other recording artists, and performing live and recorded background vocals. As backing vocalist he appeared widely, including on David Bowie’s “Young Americans” (1975), Chic’s C’est Chic (1978), Sister Sledge’s We Are Family (1979), and Roberta Flack’s Roberta Flack Featuring Donny Hathaway (1980). Vandross signed to Atlantic’s Cotillion label in the mid-1970s and released two unsuccessful albums with a self-titled group call Luther. He also worked as a vocalist with the disco-oriented band Change on several singles released during the early 1980s.
After several years of success out of the spotlight, Vandross began his solo career in earnest with the release Never too much (Epic, 1981). As a solo artist, he quickly became a central figure in the quiet storm movement that emerged during the late 1970s and continued to grow in popularity during the 1980s. He achieved tremendous success in the black singles and albums markets, but few of his singles reached national mainstream prominence.
Especially popular with African American female listeners, he released a string of sentimental ballads such as “A House is not a home” (1981), “How many times can we say goodbye” (1983), and “Here and Now” (1989). He also recorded many popular dance-oriented songs, including “Stop to Love” (1986), “Power of Love/Love Power” (1991), and “The best things in life are free” (1993). After more than a decade with Epic, Vandross recorded with Virgin and J Records in the late 1990s and early 2000s. His final album, Dance with my Father (2003), was among the most commercially successful of his career.
- C. Seymour: Luther: the Life and Longing of Luther Vandross (New York, 2004)
- J. Leeds: Obituary, New York Times (2 July 2005)