Slick, overproduced, modern R&B is not my favorite genre, but there is no denying the luscious, lustrous instrument of Luther Ronzoni Vandross, Jr, who was born in 1951, on this day- April 20th. He may have been the premier male R&B singer of his time. He won 8 Grammys including for Song of the Year in 2004- Dance With My Father.
He started as a first rate backup singer for: Diana Ross, Roberta Flack, Carly Simon, Chaka Khan, Todd Rundgren, Donna Summer, Bette Midler, Chic, Barbra Streisand. Vandross toured with David Bowie in 1974 & sang backing vocals on the Young Americans album Vandross was mentored by Roberta Flack, who thought he has the makings of a great artist.
Vandross had a series of strong selling solo albums & collaborations in the 1980s, 1990s & early aughts.
Vandross' career he was vexed' by questions about his sexuality. He remained, & he was never romantically linked in the media with women. He never explicitly denied being gay, but he never publicly acknowledged it either. He claimed that he was too busy with his career & “it was not what he wanted.” Vandross' homosexuality was an open secret in the music industry, but never seems mentioned in the list of great gay artists.
Vandross suffered from diabetes & hypertension. His weight fluctuated wildly throughout his career. In 2003 Vandross suffered a stroke at his home in Manhattan. Except for accepting his 2004 his Song of the Year Grammy in 2004, he was never seen in public again. On the video Vandross stated: “Whenever I say goodbye it's never for long because I believe in the power of love.”
Vandross died in July 2005 . He was just 54 years old & reportedly had never fully recovered from the 2003 stroke. He died peacefully, surrounded by his family & friends. He would have been 61 years old today.