LUTHER VANDROSS: The Voice has left the building

26 Nov 2005

I last saw him on stage at the Hummingbird Centre rousing the crowd as he did so well all through his life. None of us in the audience that night thought of that voice being silenced forever.

Luther Vandross died on Saturday at the John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Edison, New Jersey at the age of 54.
Who will now teach us how to spell out love without packaging a million clichés into a sentence? Who will teach us how to be “one and have fun in the glow of love?”

Luther Vandross was born in New York City and quickly recognized that he possessed a talent. His first steps in the musical world came through a song he wrote in 1972 called "Everybody Rejoice," included in the Broadway musical "The Wiz."  He then proceeded to work as a backup singer for many of the music industry’s greatest names of the time: Bette Midler, David Bowie and Barbra Streisand to name a few.

His first recording came in the 1981 hit, “Never Too Much”. But “So Amazing”, released on the 1986 classic album “Give Me the Reason” still remains the song that introduced him to many of us. The album also included the unforgettable “Stop to Love”, that had many Jerry Curls bobbing on dance floors around the world.

Luther knew how to capture a sentiment with few words. "I would much rather imply meaning rather than blatantly say it," he noted in an interview once. Many tried to duplicate that remarkable skill, succeeding only a few times; Lionel Ritchie for one in “Penny Lover” and “Hello”.

When the 90s rolled around and R&B became a sub-genre of what was now referred to as Urban music, Luther focused on more collaborative efforts with the likes of Janet Jackson and Mariah Carey releasing the single “Endless Love” in 1994, the “Power of Love” in 1991 and many Christmas albums.

His most recent hit “Dance with my Father” went beyond the romantic love that R&B singers are accustomed to exploring and examined a much private love, the one that was cut short when his father died while he was still a young boy.

Overall Luther Vandross won four Grammys, sold more than 25 million albums and, using only the smooth power of his voice, brought spice back to many bedrooms around the world.

Dionne Warwick referred to him as the “The Voice”. The Voice indeed. Rest in peace, Luther.


Eloi Minka is one of the founders of AfroToronto.com.

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