BAAS Entertainment Podcast

SIX DEGREES OF... LUTHER VANDROSS- Luther's Unique Vocal Style

SIX DEGREES OF... LUTHER VANDROSS- Luther's Unique Vocal Style

Bing. Frank. Billie. Robeson. Aretha. Diana. Dionne. Whitney. Mariah. Michael. Marvin. Luther. It is rarified company, but indelibly classic and everlasting in the annals of American music and a club Luther Vandross’ membership is permanent. Coupled with that voice, was Luther’s unique ability to write and sing about love and the shared emotions we all feel in that search and enjoyment of love. Love of family, friends, the special someone–all were themes Luther explored with his music regularly, reaching many, becoming a staple in the most joyous moments of people’s lives through his songs for the last two generations. 

 At the time of Luther’s death in 2005 following complications from a stroke two years earlier, Luther had been in entertainment for 35 years. From his introduction to the world as a singer on the first season of PBS’s Sesame Street in 1969 to winning four Grammy Awards in 2004, Luther was a permanent and dynamic force in popular music. He crossed boundaries, starting with his earliest success as a background vocalist and arranger for David Bowie, Bette Midler, Barbara Streisand, Donna Summer, Carly Simon, Judy Collins, J. Geils Band, Ben E. King, Ringo Starr and Chic. He produced records for Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick and Whitney Houston. He wrote one of the climactic musical numbers (“Everybody Rejoice”) for the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical and Academy Award nominated film The Wiz. Luther’s reach is extensive enough that CBS Sports has used his rendition of “One Shining Moment” for their coverage of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament since 2003, and Luther performed the National Anthem at Super Bowl XXXI in January 1997 in New Orleans. 

 For almost 25 years, from 1981 to 2005, Luther dominated the American R+B music charts like no other artist before or since. In that span Luther released eight (8) #1 R&B albums, seven (7) #1 R&B singles and another five (5) Top 20 R&B singles. He achieved crossover status with eight (8) Billboard Top 10 albums, including reaching #1 with 2003’s Dance With My Father; and another five (5) Top 10 Billboard Hot 100 singles. 

Between 1981 to 1996, Luther Vandross released 11 consecutive platinum/double platinum albums on CBS/Sony’s Epic Records label; and at the time of his passing in 2005, 13 of Luther’s 14 studio albums had gone platinum or multi-platinum. Luther’s success was not confined to the United States, with record sales of over 40 million worldwide since 1981, including four (4) Top 10 UK albums (one #1). In March 1989, Luther Vandross was the first male artist to sell out 10 consecutive live shows at London’s Wembley Arena. 

Throughout his distinguished career, Luther Vandross was active in charitable causes with the United Negro College Fund and the NY Chapter of the American Diabetes Association, in addition to performing at numerous charity concerts, mostnotably Michael Jackson’s Heal The World concerts in the 1990’s. Luther also contributed the song “The Christmas Song” to the A Very Special Christmas 2 record released in 1992 to benefit the Special Olympics.

Overall, Luther received 31 Grammy Award nominations, winning 8 times. Additionally, Luther won eight (8) American Music Awards, including Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist seven (7) times. 

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