Luther Vandross

Soul-singing superstar Luther Vandross recently switched labels from Sony Music, his

longtime home, to Virgin.

On his Virgin debut, last year's I Know, Vandross added elements of funk and hip-

hop to his usual sophisticated, mellow R&B mix.

Luther Ronzoni Vandross was born 48 years ago today in New York, into a family of

gospel and soul singers. His sister, Patricia, was a member of the doo-wop group the

Crests. Vandross began playing piano at age 3 and formed his first group while still in

school.

After a stint in the musical-theater workshop Listen My Brother, Vandross was invited by

guitarist Carlos Alomar, a workshop friend, to sing on David Bowie's Young

Americans. Vandross ended up arranging many of the LP's backing vocals and co-wrote

the popular "Fascination" (RealAudio excerpt) with

Bowie. Vandross also opened for Bowie on the tour supporting the album.

The next phase of Vandross' career was spent as an in-demand session singer for such

artists as Ringo Starr, Chaka Khan, Donna Summer and Barbra Streisand. He was

signed by Cotillion Records as part of the vocal group Luther, but the band's two disco-

flavored LPs flopped. Vandross returned to backing the likes of Patti Austin, Chic, Sister

Sledge and Quincy Jones and also found work singing ad jingles.

Vandross' work as guest vocalist for the group Change led to a solo contract with

Epic/CBS Records. He soon had a #1 R&B hit with "Never Too Much," followed by the

similarly successful "Stop to Love" and "There's Nothing Better than Love" (with Gregory

Hines).

Almost all of Vandross' albums have become smash R&B hits and Any Love

(1988) and Power of Love (1991) went top-10 pop as well. In 1989 Vandross had

a top-10 pop hit with "Here and Now." Two years later he enjoyed a top-five pop smash

with "Power of Love/Love Power." Other top-10 pop hits included "Don't Wanna Be a

Fool" and the Janet Jackson duet "The Best Things in Life Are Free."

As a producer, Vandross' credits include Aretha Franklin's 1982 Jump to It and

1983's Get it Right and records for Dionne Warwick, Diana Ross, Teddy

Pendergrass and Whitney Houston. After appearing in the 1993 movie "Meteor Man,"

Vandross had a #2 smash duet with Mariah Carey, "Endless Love" from his

Songs (1994).

Vandross' latest, I Know, features vocals by Cassandra Wilson and was

nominated for a 1999 Grammy for Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance. The title cut

was nominated for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance.

Also in 1998, Sony issued Luther Vandross Always & Forever-Classics.

Also celebrating a birthday today: Craig Frost (Grand Funk Railroad), 51.