Luther Vandross Jr. was born in 1951 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York. When Vandross was eight, his father died of diabetes. At thirteen, Vandross and his family moved to the Bronx. At roughly the same time, he heard Dionne Warwick sing 'Anyone Who Had A Heart' which turned Vandross on to music forever.
Vandross started the group Listen My Brother in high school and managed to even play at the Apollo Theatre once. During the late sixties, he appeared in the first episode of Sesame Street and appeared as a vocalist on Quincy Jones album Best.
After a year at Western Michigan University, Vandross dropped out to pursue a career in music. He sang backing vocals for many big name artists including Diana Ross, Roberta Flack, Chaka Khan and Donna Summer. However, Flack felt Vandross had an incredible talent and prodded him to pursue his own career.
Not ready to go out on his own just yet, Vandross started a singing groupcalled Luther. While they scored a successful single with 'It's Good For The Soul,' the group's albums Luther, and This Close To You, released in 1976 and 77 respectively did not do well. After the group was dropped, Vandross bought the rights to each of the albums.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Vandross became well-known for creating jingles. He created and sang jingles for advertising campaigns including Kentucky Fried Chicken's 'We Do Chicken Right,' NBC's 'Proud As A Peacock' and the US Army's 'Be All You Can Be.'
Vandross scored success as a guest singer in the group Change. In 1980, they had hits with 'The Glow of Love,' and 'Searching' which helped Vandross gain a recording contract with Epic Records.
Working with Epic, Vandross released his debut album Never Too Much. The album went double platinum, and featured the tracks 'A House Is Not A Home' and the #1 R&B hit 'Never Too Much.' The album highlighted Vandross diverse talent as he wrote and produced six of the seven tracks. The second single 'Don't You Know That?' reached the R&B top ten.
Despite the strong success of Vandross album, he was unable to have success on the pop charts. Nevertheless, Vandross success enabled him to produce and write for other artists. This work included producing Cheryl Lynn's 1982 album Instant Love and appearing on a duet with her, 'If This World Were Mine,' which reached the top five on the R&B charts. He also helped produce and write for Aretha Franklin, including her #1 hit 'Love Me Right.'
While doing all of this work with other artists, Vandross was able to create his second album, Forever, For Always, For Love in 1982. The album quickly went platinum and scored similar chart success to Never Too Much.
Helping several artists score Top Ten hits in the next year, Vandross still managed to produce and release his third album, Busy Body in 1983. The album continued Vandross streak, going platinum by 1985 and scoring two Top Ten R&B hits with 'I'll Let You Slide' and 'Superstar/Until You Come Back To Me.'
Vandross was able to spend two years on his second album, The Night I Fell In Love, which came out in 1985 and went platinum almost instantly. The album later went double platinum and was packed with hits. The album featured 'Til My Baby Comes Home,' 'It's Over Now,' 'Wait For Love,' and 'If Only For One Night.'
1986 saw another release by Vandross with the album Give Me The Reason. The title track was a top five R&B hit, 'Stop To Love' which was a number one R&B hit, and 'There's Nothing Better Than Love,' another #1 R&B hit. Following a trend, the album went double platinum.
Any Love came out in 1988 and went platinum quickly. The title track reached #1 on the R&B charts, and the singles 'For You To Love' and 'She Won't Talk To Me' both made it to the top five. During this time, Vandross had a record-breaking ten-night stand at Lond's Wembley Arena.
Ending the decade, Vandross released The Best of Luther Vandross: The Best Of Love which included the new tracks 'Here and Now' and 'Treat You Right.' 'Here and Now' was the single Vandross had been waiting for, topping the R&B charts and finally scoring him a top ten pop hit. 'Treat You Right' was a top five R&B hit and the album went triple platinum, with 'Here and Now' scoring Vandross a Grammy Award.
In 1991, Vandross released Power Of Love which maintained Vandross new pop success. The single 'Power of Love/Love Power' topped the R&B charts and went to the Top Five on the pop charts. The album went double platinum and scored more success with 'Don't Want To Be A Fool,' 'The Rush,' and 'Sometimes It's Only Love,' all of which were Top Ten R&B hits. The album earned two more Grammy's for Luther Vandross, scoring him the Best R&B Song and Best R&B Voal Performance.
Vandross sued Sony/CBS to get out of his contract and began anew with his own label under the Epic/LV imprint. In 1993, Vandross album Never Let Me Go was the first under this new line. The album failed to score the same success as Vandross earlier works, failing to top the R&B charts. Despite the album's inability to score a big hit like previous works, the album still managed to go platinum.
With Vandross momentum slowing, he met up with Sony president Tommy Mottola and his then-wife, Mariah Carey and came up with a plan for a new album. Why not do an all-covers album since every one of his album's featured a revamped classic track. Vandross ceded production to Walter Afanasieff who had recently worked with Carey, Michael Bolton and Celine Dion. The album, Songs, came out in 1994. It featured 'Endless Love,' a duet with Carey, which peaked at #2 on the pop charts. The album immediately went platinum and went double platinum shortly thereafter.
Your Secret Love came out in 1996 and scored success with 'Your Secret Love' which reached the R&B Top Five, and the minor hits 'I Can Make It Better' and 'Love Don't Love You Anymore.' Going platinum, the album continued Vandross success.
In 1998, Vandross signed to Virgin Records and released the album I Know, which continued his trend towards hip-hop and rap. The album was a disappointment, only going gold and caused Vandross to leave Virgin.
J Records was Vandross next stop as he signed to Clive Davis new label in 2000. In 2001, Vandross released his first effort on the new label, the self-titled Luther Vandross. The album featured a new line-up of writers and was a solid success. The album scored a Top Ten R&B hit with 'Take You Out' and had entries with singles 'If I Was The One,' 'Can Heaven Wait,' and 'I'd Rather' helping the album reach platinum status.
Vandross began preparing his next album in 2002, and wrote the title track 'Dance With My Father.' The track was autobiographical, detailing the difficulties that his father's early death put upon his family and his mother and Vandross's desire to finally get to dance with him once more.
As the album finished production in 2003, Vandross suffered a stroke on April 16, 2003. The stroke was brought on by his diabetes and the physical strain of his struggles with his weight.
While suffering from his illness, Dance With My Father was released and the album topped both R&B and pop charts, a first for Vandross. The title track went gold and the album went double platinum. The Grammy Awards that year doubled his collection as he won for Song of the Year, R&B Vocal Performance, Male, Best R&B Album, and Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. Vandross accepted the awards over tape, promising to be back in action soon.
As 2004 came and went and 2005 began, Vandross continued his recovery. But on July 1, 2005, Luther Vandross died.
Vandross contributions to music were tremendous. While he sold over 23 million copies in the US, with worldwide sales reaching as many as 40 million, Vandross legacy goes beyond sales. Despite changes in R&B music over the two decades during which Vandross was successful, his sound remained consistent. In addition to his own work, he contributed to artists including Garland Jeffreys, Carly Simon, Roy Buchanan, Quincy Jones, Norma Jean, Roberta Flack, Cat Stevens, Delores Hall, Barbara Streisand, Donna Summer, Chaka Khan, Aretha Franklin, Cheryl Lynn, Diana Ross, James Ingram, Dionne Warwick, and many, many more.