It has been a little over three months since Luther passed on July 1. I was in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport with my mom when I got the news from a friend. I was totally stunned. I was really hoping he would pull through and make a full recovery but I guess God had other plans for him. I likened his death to having the impact of losing Nat King Cole in the sixties for both were such great crooners of their day and adored by everyone. As there will never be another Nat King Cole, there will never be another Luther Vandross.
I remember buying Never Too Much on a Sunday in the fall of 1981 and I could not wait to get home to play it. It was so soulful that my parent’s enjoyed it as well. I played it over and over again. By this time “House Is Not A Home” and the title track “Never Too Much” were all over the airwaves. Having been a background vocalist himself for such greats as David Bowie and Roberta Flack, Luther knew the importance of having tight vocal harmonies supporting him. You hear this on “Never Too Much”, “She’s A Super Lady”, “Don’t You Know That”, and my favorite song, “You Stopped Loving Me” which I first heard Roberta Flack sing on the “Busting Loose” movie soundtrack (I lost my cassette of that soundtrack!!!) “A House Is Not A Home”, a Bacharach/David composition made popular by Dionne Warwick in the sixties, has become a timeless Luther classic.
He later produced Dionne’s How Many Times Can We Say Goodbye album which yielded a duet between them on the title track and other gems like “So Amazing” and “What Can A Miracle Do.” Luther’s love for the great songbirds was evident in the pairing of Dionne and The Shirelles on the classic “Will You Still Love Me Tommorrow” to close out the album. Luther also spun his magic on two of Aretha’s early 80’s albums, Jump To It and Get it Right. Oooo, future flashbacks.
Before his solo debut, I remember Luther singing on Change’s hits “Searching” and “The Glow of Love.” I later learned that he did vocal arrangements for both Chic and Change. Again, the tightness of harmonies is very evident. Luther was also on Quincy Jones’ Sounds…And Stuff Like That album. He sang a beautiful duet with Patti Austin on “I’m Gonna Miss You” and he and Gwen Guthrie lead the heavenly choir on “Taking It To The Streets.”
In addition,”there was no concert like a Luther concert cuz a Luther concert don’t stop.” It was truly concert par excellence. They were always well choreographed, his background singers were gorgeous, and the music was sensational. I saw him in concert in Chicago not long after the Forever, For Always, For Love album was released in 1982. It was an amazing show and I can still picture it in my head today. He had a great sense of humor as well. I remember at one point during singing “Bad Boy/Having A Party”, Luther had a pretend bucket of chicken in his hand which was in reference to the jokes Eddie Murphy had made about him.
The above photo is from a Luther tribute in Chicago sponsored by radio station V-103. Droves of people came out to sign the giant cards that were being sent to Luther’s mother in remembrance of her son and the music he gave the world.
Great music never dies. It just lives on in our hearts forever. Thank you, Luther!
Enjoy your music!