R&B singer Luther Vandross, known for such hits as "Don't Want to Be a Fool" and "Here and Now," died Friday of complications from his 2003 stroke. He was 54.
Vandross, whose Dance With My Father won four Grammys in 2004, died at 1:47 p.m. at the John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Edison, New Jersey, according to his spokesperson. Details on the exact cause of death have not been released.
"Luther Vandross had a peaceful passing under the watchful eye of friends, family and the medical support team," read a statement released by the hospital. "As you know, Luther Vandross suffered a stroke two years ago, which he never fully recovered from. Throughout his illness, Luther received excellent medical care and attention from his medical team. Luther was deeply touched by all the thoughts and wishes from his fans."
Vandross' publicist, Jeff O'Conner, called the death "a huge loss in the R&B industry. He was a close friend of mine and right now it's shocking," O'Conner told The Associated Press, noting that Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle and Quincy Jones had called to offer condolences.
"I love Luther and his music," said singer Mya, who worked with Vandross on the Michael Jackson-produced "What More Can I Give" benefit single. "It was a real pleasure to work with him. It is a very sad loss." (See "John Legend, Ruben Studdard, Mya Remember Luther Vandros" for more.)
Vandross, who had long struggled with weight problems, diabetes and hypertension, suffered a stroke in April 2003 and was in a coma for nearly two months (see "Luther Vandross Suffers Stroke"), but he was said to be recovering. In October 2003, the singer's assistant said Vandross was singing again (see "Luther Vandross Showing Steady Signs Of Recovery, Begins Singing Again"), although he never made a public appearance after the stroke.
Since the start of his solo career in the early '80s, Vandross sold more than 25 million albums behind hits like "Power of Love/ Love Power" and "Dance With My Father." He recorded duets with Janet Jackson ("The Best Things in Life Are Free," from 1992's "Mo' Money" soundtrack), Mariah Carey ("Endless Love," from 1994's covers album Songs) and Beyoncé ("The Closer I Get to You," from 2003's Dance With My Father), who also appeared in the "Dance With My Father" video.
|Luther Vandross: A Look Back|
Carey, Mary J. Blige and Celine Dion are among several singers who have contributed to a Vandross tribute album being put together by producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Fantasia, Ruben Studdard and Angie Stone will also be on the album, which does net yet have a release date.
Vandross was born to two singers in New York on April 20, 1951, and developed his velvety tenor voice at a young age. He began his career in the '70s, singing for commercials and as a backup singer for Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer. He also wrote songs for David Bowie and the Broadway musical "The Wiz" before his group, Change, debuted in 1980 with the mild hit "The Glow of Love."
His first solo album, Never Too Much, debuted a year later, selling 2 million copies on the strength of the single "A House Is Not a Home," a song Studdard famously performed on "American Idol" years later.
The prolific Vandross released six more albums throughout the '80s (1982's Forever, for Always, for Love, 1983's Busy Body, 1985's The Night I Fell in Love, 1986's Give Me the Reason, 1988's Any Love and 1989's The Best of Luther Vandross ... The Best of Love), each of which went at least platinum.
In 1991 Vandross started crossing over from R&B to the pop charts with Power of Love, which included the singles "Power of Love/ Love Power" and "Don't Want to Be a Fool." He followed that with a covers album, a couple of Christmas records and several more of his own releases, but each sold progressively fewer copies.
When Dance With My Father hit stores the second week of June 2003 — the same week he came out of his coma — it became the first Vandross LP to debut at #1 on the Billboard pop albums chart.
The poignant title track, dedicated to the father Vandross lost to complications of diabetes when he was 5 years old, won Song of the Year at the 2004 Grammys. Vandross, in a wheelchair, accepted the award with a videotaped speech.
"Remember," he said at the end of his speech, "when I say goodbye it's never for long, because ... I believe in the power of love."
Vandross was never married and never had children, and his two sisters and a brother died before him.