Luther Vandross Poster


Jump to: Overview (5)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Trade Mark (2)  | Trivia (25)  | Personal Quotes (1)

Overview (5)

Born in Kips Bay, Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA
Died in Edison, New Jersey, USA  (complications from a stroke)
Birth NameLuther Ronzoni Vandross Jr.
Nickname Ronnie
Height 6' 2½" (1.89 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Designated the "heartbeat" of R&B during the 1980s and 1990s, Luther Vandross led a productive singing and songwriting life before to this preeminence. The soul balladeer's strong commitment to the art of music continued on its Grammy-winning course, even after an acute stroke in 2003 left him severely incapacitated and unable to continue public appearances.

Luther Ronzoni Vandross, Jr. was born in Manhattan, New York on April 20, 1951, the baby of four children. His father, also named Luther, was an upholsterer who died of diabetes when the singer was just eight years old. Despite this sadness, his mother, a practical nurse, made sure that music was prevalent in the Vandross household, particularly gospel, soul and doo-wop. Luther was influenced by his older sister Patricia, who became a member of a doo-wop group called The Crests, and scored with the 1958 single "Sixteen Candles".

In high school, Luther formed his own musical group and first started to write and compose. His first big songwriting break came with "Everybody Rejoice (Can You Feel a Brand New Day)", which was used for the Broadway stage and film productions of "The Wiz". He also sang in the film's choir selections. In the 1970s, while still working his way up, Luther voiced commercial jingles (Kentucky Fried Chicken) and provided backup vocals on tour and in session work for such notables as David Bowie, Chaka Khan, Barbra Streisand, Carly Simon, Bette Midler and Donna Summer. After performing with a short-lived singing group called "Luther", which was formed to include the talented musicians Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, who later formed the group, Chic, Luther returned to the background and took part in various projects for Quincy Jones and others. Insisting on creative control, Luther had a difficult time finding the right contract for himself in record-making.

At age 30, he finally recorded his first solo album with the No. 1 R&B and "Top 20" pop chartmaker, "Never Too Much". He continued steadily with such albums as "Forever, for Always, for Love" (1982) and "Give Me the Reasons" (1986), but it wasn't until 1989 that he had his first "Top 10" single with "Here and Now" (No. 6), which finally placed him securely on the love song pedestal. Such other No. 1 R&B singles would include "Stop to Love", "There's Nothing Better than Love" and "Any Love".

A minimalist stylist whose eloquent, velvety renditions were accentuated by spot-on phrasing and effortless vocal control, his image quickly led to such unwelcome sobriquets as "master of bedroom music" and the restrictive label of being a "ladies only" act. He was also besieged by a wealth of other personal and health problems. A binge eater, his weight fluctuated through his career with his 6' 3" frame handling a diversity of 190 to 340 pounds at various stages, aggravated by constant career pressures and a roller coaster personal and romantic life.

The never-married crooner was besieged by persistent reports that he was gay (he never denied or acknowledged the reports), rumors that threatened his ladies' man career. Moreover, Luther suffered from a mild form of diabetes, the disease that took the life of his father. In 1986, he was the driver in automobile crash that killed one passenger (a close friend) with a charge of vehicular manslaughter finally reduced to reckless driving (speeding).

The 1990s seemed, career-wise, stronger than ever again with a Top 40 hit dueting with Mariah Carey on "Endless Love" (1994) and the release of his No. 1 R&B signature version of "Always and Forever" (1994).

On camera, film and television acting appearances include a cameo in Robert Townsend's film The Meteor Man (1993) and episodes of "Beverly Hills: 90210" (as himself) and "Touched by An Angel". A documentary, Luther Vandross: Always and Forever (1994), is also available. Through his career, Luther continued to write and produce for other artists including Whitney Houston, Dionne Warwick, Teddy Pendergrass, Cheryl Lynn and Aretha Franklin. Following his massive April 2003 stroke, he made a phantom return to the spotlight with the release of his CD "Dance With My Father" (2003), which was recorded before his illness. At the awards show, the absent Luther was rewarded with four Grammy Awards, including song of the year. The success also gave him his first No. 1 album on the pop chart and four NAACP Image Awards.

The beloved 54-year-old musician died of a heart attack on July 1, 2005 at the JFK Medical Center in Edision, New Jersey, and was survived by his Evangelist mother, Mary Ida Vandross, who was instrumental in promoting her son's last work to Grammy glory following his severe debilitation.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Trade Mark (2)

Songs about relationship
His vocal bravado

Trivia (25)

Discovered by David Bowie, who overheard Luther singing to his song "Young Americans". Bowie put him on the recording of the song.
When he was born, the doctor asked his mother what the child's first and middle names were. She had already picked Luther for a first name but had not thought of a middle name; there happened to be a box of Ronzoni spaghetti on the table next to her bed, so she told the doctor that his middle name was Ronzoni, and that is the name on his birth certificate.
His mother almost didn't give birth to him. She had a ruptured appendix and was rushed to the hospital. When the doctor asked his father which one of them to save, he told the doctor to save his wife. Fortunately, she came through the operation successfully and Luther was born, prematurely, but healthy.
He had long struggled with obesity, hypertension and diabetes.
On April 16, 2003, he suffered a stroke in his Manhattan apartment which left him in a coma for nearly two months. Shortly after the stroke he also had to fight both meningitis and pneumonia, which necessitated a tracheotomy to help him breathe. He emerged from his coma on June 5, 2003.
On June 12, 2003, he was moved from ICU and upgraded to stable condition.
On June 10, 2003, his CD "Dance with My Father" was released. It was dedicated to his father, Luther Vandross Sr., who died of complications of diabetes when Luther was eight years old.
He died at 1:47 p.m. ET of July 1, 2005, at John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Edison, New Jersey--surrounded by family, friends and a medical support team--from complications of a stroke. He is interred at George Washington Memorial Park in Paramus, New Jersey.
Sang background vocals for Richard Marx and Chaka Khan.
Because of the stroke he suffered, resulting in a coma, he was unable to record a music video for "Dance with My Father Again", so instead, R&B artists came together to create a "get-well card" as his music video.
On January 12, 1986, Jimmy Salvemini, a 15-year-old singer from Star Search (1983), and Larry, his 27-year-old brother and manager, were passengers in Vandross' 1985 Mercedes-Benz convertible, with him driving, on Laurel Canyon Blvd. in the north section of the Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles. He was driving 48 mph in a 35-mph zone when his car veered across the double-yellow center line of the two-lane street, turned sideways, collided with the front of a car that headed southbound, then swung around and hit another car head-on. He and Jimmy were rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Vandross suffered three broken ribs, a broken hip, several bruises and facial cuts. Jimmy Salvemini, who sat in the back of the car, had cuts, bruises and contusions. His older brother, Larry, who was riding on the front passenger seat, was killed during the collision. Vandross faced vehicular manslaughter charges as a result of Larry's death, and his driver's license was suspended for a year. There was no evidence he was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The Salvemini family filed a wrongful death suit against him. The case was settled out of court with a payment to the Salvemini family of $700,000.
The youngest of four siblings, he was also the last one to die. His mother outlived most of her children.
Attended and graduated from William Howard Taft High School in the Bronx, New York.
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume 7, 2003-2005, pages 557-558. Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale (2007).
His older sister, Patricia Van Dross, was an original member of the 1950s "doo-wop" group The Crests.
In the 1970s, he sang backup for Barbra Streisand, Roberta Flack and Bette Midler.
In April 2008, his mother, Mary Ida Vandross, passed away at age 85. She was the last surviving member of the immediate Vandross family.
In December 1985, he filed a libel suit against a British magazine after it attributed his 85-pound weight loss to AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Vandross said he weighed 325 pounds when he started a diet in May that year.
He was posthumously awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Recording at 1717 North Vine Street in Hollywood, California on June 3, 2014.
Briefly attended Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Had three siblings, he had one brother, Charles Vandross, and two sisters, Patricia Vandross and Ann Vandross, most of them were older and predeceased him.
On April 20, 2021, he was posthumously honored with a Google Doodle on what would have been his 70th birthday.
He was a lifelong Democrat.
Namesake and possible inventor of the Luther Burger, a bacon-cheeseburger served on a glazed donut. In a 1993 interview for "Entertainment Weekly", Vandross said improvising that combo (because he had no burger buns) was the most decadent thing he ever did.

Personal Quotes (1)

It was the women [Dionne Warwick, Aretha Franklin, The Supremes] who drove me to the stereo. Men feel they have something to prove. They don't trust their automatic pilot chops. Females do. They go on deeper dramatic trips, take more chances. Put it out there with greater flair.

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