Throwback Thursday — Luther, Luther, Luther

I never met him, never knew him, but I miss him. Luther Vandross was a rare artist, a man with a golden voice, and from all appearances, a golden personality. Having grown up on his music — raise your hand if you had a copy of The Best of Luther Vandross at your crib! — I associate Luther Vandross songs with key moments in my life.

Here and Now will forever remind me of my brother Clint’s wedding — that was the song he and his wife danced to. A House Is Not A Home takes me back to Sunday mornings at my home in Trinidad, when my father would enlist all of us to help with the housecleaning. Loud music was a must to complete the task, and Luther was often in the mix. I knew Luther’s version of Superstar long before I knew who The Carpenters were (and long, LONG before I heard Sonic Youth’s version which is so different from Luther’s. Proof that that song is timeless). But Luther’s like Aretha Franklin in that sense — once he covered your song, it was HIS. Forever. His voice is so often imitated, but there will never, ever be another Luther Vandross.

We’re rapidly approaching the anniversary of his passing — I still remember exactly where I was when I first heard the news. The news left me so sad and so shocked — especially when I realized he was only 54 years old. On July 1, 2005, Luther Vandross passed away from causes that were never publicly released, although it was well known that he dealt with weight loss and food issues. Luther’s weight vacillated greatly throughout his career, and he was known for moments of tremendous indulgence. All of the reports about Luther’s death addressed his health issues — he suffered with hereditary diabetes and hypertension, and had a stroke in 2003 days before his 52nd birthday. He never fully recovered from the effects of that, although he went on to release the poignant Dance With My Father shortly afterwards. He won four Grammys, but he was unable to celebrate the victory. Luther won song of the year for the song, Dance With My Father — the video for which, like Aaliyah’s Miss You, brings me practically to tears every time I watch it. Luther described that song as his “Piano Man,” and it’s heartbreaking that he isn’t around to perform it today.

Luther’s life and music inspire me creatively, his music stirs my soul and can bring prickly tears to the back of my eyes. But the circumstances of his passing inspire me in another way — Luther Vandross succumbed too young, to health conditions that are too common in America. Especially in the African American community. These are health conditions that plague my own family. If you’re like me, you’ve probably got some diabetes somewhere in the fam, and in my case, high blood pressure definitely runs close in the blood. I am doing everything I can now, while I can, to keep the health issues that simmer in my bloodstream at bay. It’s a daily struggle, one that I’m going to be writing about more often.

Luther Vandross left this world too soon, but he left us with such a glorious gift. So much great music, so many wonderful songs. What’s my favorite Luther song? That’s easy. Never Too Much! Oh, how I love that song. It showcases his voice’s incredible range and ability so perfectly, IMO.

Here’s Luther LIVE on The Early Show in 2000.

Look at how rapt that audience is. Listen to how flawless his voice is. Wow. I wish I could have been there.

Do you have a favorite Luther song? Did you love Luther’s spirit? Tell me how he made you feel. And happy Thursday — it’s almost the weekend!

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Comments

  1. Bella…

    So many Luther songs so little time

    1. A House is not a Home
    2. Bad Boy (House Party Soundtrack)
    3. Creepin

  2. Wow, this is such an emotional topic for me just like Aaliyah’s death. I grew up in a home where we were only allowed to listen to artists like Luther, Anita Baker, The Isley Brothers, and Freddy Jackson…momma wasn’t having that hip hop and rap stuff in her house! Needless to say, I know Luther like the back of my hand and some of favorites are So Amazing, For You To Love, Don’t Want to Be A Fool, Creepin (that song is so fun!), and of course Here and Now. Luther epitomizes real music and I still can’t believe he’s gone, he was like a childhood friend and I miss him..very much.

  3. Forgot to answer your questions.

    Luther made me feel like no matter what ills I experienced in the world; love will always win.

    Luther’s spirit was fun loving, spontaneous, divo-ish, and confident. It amazes me how I feel like I know what I need to know about him; but there is so little personally that we all know about this man. Yes I wonder if he was really gay, yes I wonder what he died from; but at the end all that matters is that he gave us his gift.

  4. My mistake I confused Bad Boy/Having a Party with Creepin, but I like them both. :)

  5. nolagirl says:

    I always remeber his death I was on my way to essence fest and it was my birthday.
    I loved so many songs.
    Right now I will say power of Love/ Love power this will change in a few mintues when I remeer the title to that Christmas song he did about not getting under the mistltoe with him cause she had twins…..

    As I nver wanted to Date Luther his preference in that was never an issue, but his music was for everyone.
    did anyone see him on Oprah when he said he only used crystal glasses, even for kool- aid? I am sure he was a good friend to hang around.

  6. cosmicsistren says:

    Hi Bella!!
    I wasn’t a Luther fan but I loved how you expressed your feelings for him. Very touching. I had interned at Virgin Records when he was on the label. I has worked for someone that worked on some of Luther’s projects. He was in his office with a collegue and they were discussing celebrites they like working with. He said that Luther Vandross was always professional and courteous. He was very ontop of his business and made sure the record company was too. He also added that he was VERY FUNNY.

    (now that I think about it I am not sure if he was on Virgin Records…but the rest of the story is accurate).

  7. My favorites are “Don’t You Know That”, “Wait for Love”, and “There’s Nothing Better Than Love”.

    Hey, if you have time can you do me a favor? Are you on a windows machine? Can you see if you can view the video podcast embedded on my site in today’s post? Thanks!

  8. I love/d Luther too! Especially Dance with my father…

  9. My favorite Luther song is…..Superstar/Let’s Make Tonight the Night/Anyone Who Had a Heart…..I could go on and on…y’all know it.
    I saw him concert many times and was never disappointed. Always gave a great performance. Onetime I saw him on the Rosie O’Donnell Show, and just as he began to sing the sound was muted. Luther being the professional of perfection had this look of WTH on his face. Rosie was so embarrassed that they quickly went to commercial. Later I read that it was Rosie’s staff that had messed up. Needless to say Luther never appeared on her show again.
    Recently my son read an article, which stated that NeYo is next Luther Vandross. I told my son, look don’t get me wrong, I like NeYo. The brotha is very talented, but there will NEVER be another Luther.
    Now y’all holla if you hear me….Luther had the voice that you reminisce too….that you made love too….and if you weren’t careful…. had a baby on.

    There will never be another!!!

  10. ShellaBella says:

    co sign with HomeSpaGoddess

    Don’t You Know That”, “Wait for Love”, and “There’s Nothing Better Than Love”.
    but i think my all time fav is “a house is not a home” it’s the story of my life!

    afrobella- since you are doing these reminisences…(is that a word?)

    can we get a spot light on Bobby Womack…he comes to mind b/c he did and awesome cover of close to you, by the carpenters! and his songs like that’s the way i feel about’cha and i’m through (trying to prove my love to you” are my all time fav “country songs” i feel like he NEVER gets enought props, he’s a great musician and singer, and i don’t think he ever wore his hair processed unlike one of my other unsung favorites Johnny guitar Watson…back when he started “processes” were the flavor of the day! i know i am ramblim…but i am in that kind of mood…i also agree with Melinda
    Luther made me feel like no matter what ills I experienced in the world; love will always win.
    that’s how i feel now thinking about luther and bobby and johnny and how all of their songs make me feel!

  11. couturesista says:

    I looove Luther. I’m 27 and I always loved him. My peers would hear his music on my CD player and would say your such an old head, No I just know good music. That’s what Luther represented GOOD MUSIC. I cried for days when he died, and everyone kept saying you didn’t even know him. I felt like I knew him, through his music we connected.
    Favorites
    1. So Amazing
    2. Superstar
    3. Indiglo of Love
    4. Every Christmas

    And the list goes on and on…

  12. auragirl says:

    Luther was a great talent…his music is timeless! I want “Here and Now” to be one of my wedding songs. The lyrics are so perfect for the occasion. “Superstar” is another one of my fav Luther jams. Loooooong ago….lol

  13. I went to a Stevie concert on Saturday and as I sat I thought how said it was that I would never be able to see Luther perform live. My favorite Luther songs are:
    1. So Amazing
    2. If this world were mine
    3. Bad Boy/Having a party
    4. House is not a home
    5. Superstar/Don’t you remember

    Aaaahhh… I miss you Luther!

  14. Mrs.Mckinzie says:

    My favorite Luther song’s are “Here and Now”and “Dance with my Father”.Bella, it is just to hard to pick just one.

  15. blkbuttafly826 says:

    Make me a Believer

  16. Bella, Bella, Bella you sure do read my mind. Luther’s song came on the radio the other day and I was telling my sister how emotional it gets for me sometimes listening to his songs. I pretty much go from a broad smile – because I love the words and emotions in his voice as he sings, to sorrow when I realize he is gone from us forever and we will not be able to hear anything new from him again.
    So heartbreaking :(
    I love way too many Luther’s songs but the ones that immediately come to mind are:
    I’d Rather
    So Amazing
    Dance with my Father (of course)

  17. is it just me or did almost every wedding in the 80′s or early 90′s have “Here and Now” as the bride & groom song! Love luther though. great throwback.

  18. ChocolateOrchid says:

    Oh my! So many of his songs are top on my list. Umm.. I would have to say that my favorite (outside of his more well-known classics) is:

    The Other Side of the World.

    I really cannot see another like Luther ever being in our midst. They way he made a song feel and convey it to the audience was like magic. And it’s not like he did an outrageous number of tonal inflections either. He simply sang from his spirit. A truly gifted singer. I definitely miss him.

  19. Luther’s voice was truly one of a kind and i love to hear his songs..especially his Christmas ones.

  20. TrueGem says:

    I love Luther!!
    And I think Here and Now is my moms fav song from him, so its mine as well. The lyrics are so beautiful!

  21. mochachoc says:

    Oh Bella what can I say. I absolutely loved Luther. His voice was like melting chocolate. I took me and the kids to see him at Wembley and yes I embarrassed them because I screamed like a love sick school girl. I bought his music just to hear him murmur. He will always be associated with memories of my teen aged years. I miss him so. Thanks for posting this.

  22. Amen to most of the comments here. There will never EVER be another Luther! I think ‘Make Me A Believer’ is one of my favorite Luther songs though it really is hard to pick just one. And having lost my father in 1997, I still can’t listen to ‘Dance With My Father’ without crying my eyes out. Aside from my personal loss, I just remember Luther’s mother (RIP) saying she couldn’t believe Luther remembered so much of his Dad. One of my first concerts was a Luther one. And I’m with you, Bella, I also can’t watch/listen to Aaliyah’s ‘Missing You’ without getting choked up.

  23. Wait For Love and If This World Were Mine. They are both melodic, beautiful songs to me. I love Luther’s music, I love the way he carried himself. He is truly missed.

  24. My absolute favorite song by Luther is “Excuse Me Miss.” I can put that on repeat for days. I also love “So Amazing” and many others. He is missed.

  25. Sumatra77 says:

    Ahhhh! LUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!! As my mother would scream as she played the best of Luther in our home in Nigeria. I was going through my Shabba Ranks phase and couldn’t understand why she was having a fit over this man named Luther. But then I started to listen and grow up and found my soul stirring everytime his voice came on. I went to a concert of his in college and let me tell you… he made me believe in love that night. He was and still is, in a special, exclusive, league of his own.
    Superstar, Nothing better than love(RIP Gregory Hines), Wait for love… there are too many to mention.

  26. timely posts ALL the time, girl – i really take my hat off to you. omg! i was about to type that the sound of Luther’s voice instantly reminds me of my precious late Daddy and my incredibly awesome childhood in Nigeria, and here’s fellow Naija sumatra77 right above me posting his/her story! this is the power of a great artist. we miss you Luther, but you will live forever.

  27. Luther reminds me of college. How many slow jams request for his songs did we make to the college radio station? Too many to count. I can’t believe he is no longer with us.

    I would say “So Amazing” is one of my favorites. So are “Never too Much”, “Here and Now” “House is not a Home”.

    If you listen to David Bowie’s song Young Americans you can hear Luther who sang background vocals.

    I agree re:Bobby Womack. He’s another very talented singer.

  28. Luther Vandross was one of the few singers my mother and I both liked. That’s REALLY saying something. My favorite song is “Forever, For Always, For Love”.

  29. Patrick Jnr. says:

    Bella! I have always loved Luther and still do! After looking at your clip I scrolled through other youtube videos, and saw a few that made me smile and even brought a tear to the corner of my eye. Luther was scheduled to perform in Trinidad and that was cancelled when he had his stroke. I prayed for him to make a full recovery so maybe one day I would have been fortunate to see and hear him live, but it was not meant to be. None of the artists that have graced my shores have really moved me to want to attend, to hear him I would have moved heaven and earth! This Saturday in close proximity to one another; Chris Brown and Machel Montano, and the other features Peter Cetera, John Waite and John Secada…guess I’ll be staying home! Thanks for the post!

  30. Bebroma says:

    I saw Luther in concert when I was 18, the first big girl concert my mother allowed me to go to. That was over 20 years ago, and he was on his game!! Stoplights came down from the ceiling when he was singing his song “Stop” and everytime he sang “Stop!” the stoplights would flash red…I thought I was going to have a heart attack. He really knew how to put on a show…I read his biography and that was one of his trademarks, putting on a fabulous floor show.

    Favorite song…I can’t pick!! I love Other Side of the World, Creep, Wait for Love, So Amazing…all of his songs bring back so many memories. When I was young, he was super hot, and all the boys were jealous. They were like, what’s so special about the voice thing (ya’ll know, when he would do that deep vibratto thing and go up the register…made you want to squeal, right?). They were made cause they couldn’t do it! :-]

  31. Make Me a Believer just makes me want to be in blissful, sweet love all the time. He and Martha Wash totally killed it on their version of “I Who Have Nothing”. “Wait For Love”, “Never Too Much”… too many great songs! Damn, I miss Luther and Gerald Levert!

  32. I seriously grew up on Luther. I didn’t even cry when he died. To me, he is still alive and he music STILL sends shivers down my spine. I love Luther!!

  33. There are very few artists out right now that I would pay over 50 to see, but I would give anything to have seen Luther in concert before he passed. He was definitely one of kind. I’ve heard a few of his live performances & they are breathtaking.

  34. Sumatra77 says:

    Shout out Frances! Love to hear from a fellow Nigerian. I’m female and religiously read this blog. I think Bella reads my mind!

  35. Luther is just like Aretha. You don’t need a last name to know who you’re talking about. He was an incredible talent who was way too young when he passed. I agree with you Bella, let his passing be a lesson to us all; that if we want to continue to create more memories and spend more time with loved ones, we must take care of ourselves in order to do so. Luther, we love you and we miss you dearly. I suspect that wherever he is, he’s singing his heart out for all who will hear. My personal favorite (if we’re going there) is admittedly “Stop to Love” because it’s one of my earlier memories of him. But overall, “Any Love” is it for me. It’s a song whose message I know we can all relate to.

  36. Every song of Luther’s is a favorite. Like you I used to have to clean the house with his music playing. Also I listen to him when I just need to think and reflect life. I was at my aunts house having a cookout when I heard of his death. He is greatly missed.

  37. Thanks for reminding us of Luther’s spirit. There are so many Luther songs that are dear to me…My favs include (in no particular order) Any Love, Bad boy/having a party, Since I lost my baby, A House is not a home, Here & Now, Give me the reason, Love won’t let me wait, If this world were mine, So Amazing, Best Things in life are free….I remember going through my folks’ albums playing them. The quiet storm is not a quiet storm without a quintessential Luther song…

  38. Hey Bellas,

    There is a song that comes to mind right now as I am enjoying this gorgeous weather in NY. The Glow of Love- it’s just so upbeat and makes me feel sooo happy. Superstar, So Amazing, If this world were mine and The Power of Love are among favorites. They just bring back beautiful memories. I think I am going to turn on some Luther this afternoon and yes we lost his way too soon.

  39. EarthyDiva says:

    Talk abt it Afrobella!

    I had a party in my office to celebrate Luther’s life and music. I was shocked at how many of my coworkers were unfamiliar with his amazing body of work. They are all luther fans now!

    Thanks for taking the time to celebrate his life and legacy.

    ED

  40. A lady in my office turned me on to this site she listens to while at work and a lot of these Luther hits are on it, http://www.throwbacksongs.com

  41. although i have never been to much of a luther fan, i just had to comment because i live in a household with music like this is flowing throughout it daily. my mother has raised me with good music and i am so thankful for that. because without that influence, i could be just like any other teenager listening to these (no offense) horrible artists on the radio. although its a shame that hes gone, its great to see he has left something that will always remain for the rest of the generations to come: music. thanks for writing about great artists like luther, hopefully more kids my age will come to appreciate it.

    oh and the thing bout cleaning house, thats how it ALWAYS is over here, my mom will dance around the house with this kindof music BLASTED!

    have a great day,
    kevynn

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