Bio: Born into a family immersed in gospel and soul singing, Vandross had already formed his own group while still at school and later worked with the musical theatre workshop, Listen My Brother. This enabled him to perform at Harlem’s Apollo Theatre. After a brief hiatus from the music scene in the 70s, he was invited by an old school friend and workshop colleague, Carlos Alomar, to join him in the studio with David Bowie for the recording of Young Americans. Vandross impressed Bowie enough to be invited to arrange the vocal parts and make a substantial contribution to the backing vocals for the album. By the time Bowie’s US tour was underway, Vandross had also secured the position as opening act. His vocal talent was soon in demand and his session credits with Chaka Khan, Ringo Starr, Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer generated sufficient interest from the Cotillion label to sign him as part of a specially put-together vocal group, Luther. Luther and This Close To You (both 1976) flopped, partly owing to the use of a disco backing in favour of allowing Vandross to express his more romantic, soul style.
The singer subsequently drifted back to session work putting in outstanding performances for Quincy Jones, Patti Austin, Gwen Guthrie, Chic and Sister Sledge. This work was subsidized by his composing advertising jingles. His performance as guest singer with the studio group Change on 1980’s The Glow Of Love earned two UK Top 20 hits in ‘Glow Of Love’ and ‘Searching’. This led to the re-launch of a higher profile career, this time as solo artist with Epic/ CBS Records. ‘Never Too Much’ earned him an R&B number 1 while the accompanying album reached the US Top 20. Subsequent singles, including duets with Cheryl Lynn (‘If This World Were Mine’) and Dionne Warwick (‘How Many Times Can We Say Goodbye’), saw him strengthen his popularity with the US R&B market and gave him two further R&B number 1 hits with ‘Stop To Love’ (1986) and a duet with Gregory Hines, ‘There’s Nothing Better Than Love’ (1987). Subsequent releases, including ‘Here And Now’ (US number 6, December 1989), ‘Power Of Love/Love Power’ (US number 4, April 1991) and ‘Don’t Want To Be A Fool’ (US number 9, August 1991), crossed over to become major pop hits, establishing Vandross as one of the finest soul singers of the 80s and 90s. In 1992 Vandross collaborated with Janet Jackson, BBD and Ralph Tresvant on ‘The Best Things In Life Are Free’, a US number 10 and UK number 2 hit taken from the movie Mo’ Money. ‘Endless Love’, a duet with Mariah Carey, reached UK number 3 in September 1994.
Vandross won countless awards during his commercial heyday and his reputation as a producer was enhanced by his work with Dionne Warwick, Diana Ross and Whitney Houston. A decline in sales during the mid-90s saw the termination of his Sony contract. I Know marked his debut for EMI Records, entering the US Top 30 in August 1998, but Vandross subsequently relocated to Clive Davis’ J Records for his self-titled follow-up. Vandross, who suffered from health problems for years, endured a severe stroke on 16 April 2003. He was moved out of intensive care two months later, shortly before his new studio album Dance With My Father debuted at the top of the US album charts. Despite this commercial resurgence the singer’s health continued to decline, and he passed away in July 2005.
Luther Vandross & Chaka Khan "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas"
Learn more about this artist's Christmas hits by clicking on the song titles below.