July 1, 2005: Luther Vandross died at John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Edison, New Jersey at age 54. His apparent cause of death was a heart attack.
Much of Vandross’ estate was left to friends and his godson Mark West. Vandross never married, had no children, and his three older siblings died before him. He was survived by his mother, Mary Ida, who died in 2008.
Born Luther Ronzoni Vandross was a singer-songwriter and record producer. During his career, Vandross sold over 25 million albums and won 8 Grammy Awards including Best Male R&B Vocal Performance four times.
He won 4 Grammy Awards in 2004 including the Grammy Award for Song of the Year for the track “Dance with My Father”, co-written with Richard Marx.
In 2008, Vandross was ranked #54 on Rolling Stone magazine’s List of 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. By popular vote, Luther Vandross was inducted into The SoulMusic Hall of Fame at SoulMusic. com in December 2012.
Vandross suffered from diabetes and hypertension, both of which ran in his family. He had just finished the final vocals for the album Dance With My Father (2003), on which he collaborated with pop rock artist Richard Marx, whom he met in 1989.
On April 16, 2003, Vandross suffered a severe stroke at his home in New York City. The stroke left him in a coma for nearly two months, during which time he also had to fight both meningitis and pneumonia (which required a tracheotomy). The stroke also left Vandross with noticeable difficulty speaking and singing, as well as confined him to a wheelchair.
Vandross appeared briefly on videotape at the 2004 Grammy Awards to accept his Song of the Year Award for “Dance With My Father”. In addition to thanking his fans for their support throughout his ordeal and recovery, he said, “When I say goodbye it’s never for long, because I believe in the power of love” (he sang the last six words).
Following an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, he was never seen in public again.
?In 1999, Whitney Houston sang Vandross’ “So Amazing” as a tribute to Vandross as he sat in the audience during the Soul Train Awards with Johnny Gill, El Debarge, and Kenny Lattimore (they provided background vocals).
?On July 27, 2004, GRP Records released a smooth jazz various artists tribute album, Forever, For Always, For Luther, with ten popular songs written by Vandross. The album featured vocal arrangements by Luther, and was produced by Rex Rideout and Bud Harner. Rideout had co-authored songs and contributed arrangements and played keyboards on Vandross’s final three albums. The tribute album was mixed by Ray Bardani, who recorded and mixed most of Luther’s music over the years. It featured an ensemble of smooth jazz performers, many of whom had previously worked with Vandross.
?On September 20, 2005, the album So Amazing: An All-Star Tribute to Luther Vandross was released. The album is a collection of some of his songs performed by various artists, including Stevie Wonder, Mary J. Blige, Usher, Fantasia, Beyoncé Knowles, Donna Summer, Alicia Keys, Elton John, Celine Dion,Wyclef Jean, Babyface, Patti LaBelle, John Legend, Angie Stone,Jamie Foxx, Teddy Pendergrass, and Aretha Franklin.
?Aretha Franklin won a Grammy for her rendition of “A House Is Not a Home”, and Stevie Wonder and Beyoncé won a Grammy for their cover of “So Amazing”.
?The violin duo Nuttin’ But Stringz did a remix of the song “Dance with My Father” for their album Struggle from the Subway to the Charts, which was released on October 3, 2006.
?On November 21, 2006, saxophonist Dave Koz released a followup to the earlier smooth jazz GRP tribute album, this time on his own Rendezvous Entertainment label, an album called Forever, For Always, For Luther Volume II, also produced by Rex Rideout and Bud Harner. Dave Koz played on all the featured Luther Vandross tracks, which were recorded by various smooth jazz artists.
?In 2007, Deniece Williams included “Never Too Much” on her Love, Niecy Style CD. Williams said that she recorded the song to say “I love you” to her old friend.
?The music video “Bye Bye” from Mariah Carey sees Vandross’ picture appear in the closing images. His image was included as a tribute along with various other deceased people with whom Carey had collaborated.
?On A Different Me, Keyshia Cole sings the outro to “Luther Vandross” on “Playa Cardz Right”, which features rapper Tupac Shakur.
?Guitarist Norman Brown did a rendition of “Any Love” on his 1994 album After The Storm.
?R&B band 112 sampled Vandross’ “Don’t You Know That” to make their song “Love Me” on their second album Room 112.
?Saxophonist Boney James covers his rendition on his final track “The Night I Fell In Love” onBackbone in 1994.
?In 2009, Jadakiss sampled Vandross’ “Promise Me” to make his song “The Things I’ve Been Through” on his album, “The Last Kiss”.
?In 2010, NPR included Vandross in its 50 Greatest Voices in recorded history, saying Vandross represents “the platinum standard for R&B song stylings.” The announcement was made on NPR’s All Things Considered on November 29, 2010.
?Jacob Lusk performed “Dance With My Father” on American Idol season 10 as a tribute to his late father Gregory Lusk and as a tribute to Vandross on April 20, 2011.
?Author Craig Seymour wrote a book about Vandross called Luther: The Life and Longing of Luther Vandross. The book includes numerous interviews with Vandross.
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