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  • Writer's pictureH.D. Campbell

Happy Birthday Luther Vandross: My Tribute & A Few Fun Facts

(Note: Pictures Collected From Various Sources. I Don't Own Any Of The Rights To Them)

Happy Birthday to Luther Vandross (April 20, 1951-July 1, 2005) who died as he lived entertaining and educating the art of love with his entertaining multitalented music style.

He wasn’t one of my favorite entertainers. He is my favorite entertainer of all time because when I discovered music for the first time, he was the one who started me off on a path of romance that other artists like The Isley Brothers or Barry White couldn’t put me on. The first song I ever heard was Superstar (Until You Come Back To Me) which was all I needed to know about this man. Then, I devoured his music religiously from A House Is Not A Home to So Amazing and even his fast hits like Bad Boy Having A Party. His catalog was a masterclass on how to love a woman. While Barry [White], Teddy [Pendergrass], or even classic artists like Marvin [Gaye] had romantic hits, Luther left a surprise there in which you knew would eventually lead to the

bedroom but he taught me how to make love to a woman’s mind before even touching her body.

This was a man whom I admit was my first poetic influencers. While it dangerously put me ahead of my time when it came to talking to girls, it gave me insight as to what I wanted in a relationship early in life that didn’t include the bedroom. It actually influenced a lot of my early fiction as well. In the first printing of my premiere book How To Lose A Black Woman my character Bruce Williams is a fan of Luther Vandross as well whom uses a lot of his songs as influence in his love search.

Yes, every Luther album I was there. Then he had to mess up in my freshman year of high school and put his hits together in The Best of Luther Vandross: The Best of Love. His album only increased my love for this man’s music. Then, I wanted to learn more about him. So for his birthday, here are a few Luther Vandross facts you may not know.

  • ·In 1967 Luther Vandross made four appearances at Apollo Theater’s Amateur night but didn’t win. He doesn’t give up however because legends like James Brown were booed off stage at the Apollo Theater as well.

  • He wanted to be a singer after hearing Dionne Warwick singing at the Fox Theater

  • In his early days, Luther Vandross sang backup for a number of artists and bands including: Roberta Flack, Chaka Khan, Ben E. King, Bette Midler, Diana Ross, Carly Simon, Barbra Streisand, David Bowie, Cat Stevens, Gary Glitter, Ringo Starr, Sister Sledge, and Donna Summer, and for the bands Mandrill, Chic and Todd Rundgren's Utopia.

  • Many of the above artists are key to Luther Vandross’ success.

  • He wrote an original song for the 1978 movie The Wiz Everybody Rejoice.

  • Many of his hits were remakes and solely because he put his signature wooing voice to them, you never knew they were remakes. A few of my favorites include: Superstar (Until You Come Back To Me) which originally was written in the 1960s but originally made famous by The Carpenters in 1971; A House Is Not A Home originally sung by Dionne Warwick; Love Won’t Let Me Wait originally sung by Major Harris; Since I Lost My Baby originally sung by The Temptations. Again, if you listened to the original versions, they were all sung a different way until Luther put his wooing style on it. These are only four of my favorites but there are many more.

  • Luther Vandross produces Aretha Franklin’s Jump To It Album.

  • He went from getting booed off the Apollo stage to sold out shows at Radio City Music Hall when his second album Forever, For Always, For Love became a million seller.

In his career, Luther Vandross has won eight Grammy Awards, two American Music Awards, five Soul Train Awards and two NAACP Image Awards. After his death in 2001, Mr. Vandross continues to receive honors. In 2008, he posthumously ranked #54 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Singers Of All Time. In 2010, he was named one of National Public Radio’s 50 Greatest Voices. In 2014, he received a Star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame.

Despite controversies dealing with his sexuality and his weight losses over the years, Luther Vandross continued to do what he’s been doing his whole career. He persevered despite challenges. To go from background to getting booed on stage to an amazing successful career. Mr. Vandross tragically left us on July 1, 2005, after suffering a stroke after complications from hypertension and diabetes. His health inspired me to want to be healthier. He died at the young age of 54. Even though he left a powerful legacy, he still could have been able to do much more. Luther Vandross was one of my few “heroes” and will always be.

Mr. Vandross inspired so many who came after him including: 112, Boyz II Men, D'Angelo, Hootie & the Blowfish, Jaheim, John Legend, Mint Condition, Ne-Yo, Ruben Studdard, Usher and Stokley Williams, the lead singer of Mint Condition.

Finally, who remembers the Zack Of All Trades PSAs that came on ABC in between cartoons. Those were PSAs featuring Zack who used to sing and teach you about finding a career for your future. Well, Zack was voiced by none other than Luther Vandross himself. Of all of the facts I researched, this was one of the coolest ones. That and he was also part of a singing group that sang songs for the first two seasons of Sesame Street.

Happy Birthday Luther. The concert in Heaven must be bright. Say hello to Prince, Michael Jackson, 2Pac, Biggie, Whitney Houston, and all of the other talents who gained wings. Rest Well!

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