Forever, For Always, For Luther (1951-2005)…A Remembrance…

{Luther saw the big picture but always made sure the details were just right. A Luther Vandross vocal performance was not just the passionately liquid melisma that rolled over melodies like a fine wine. It was also the technical wizardry of a singing master who always knew how to fill the pocket of a song, whether with his own out-of-nowhere ad-lib or the bright just-right harmony of a group of background singers always at the very top of their form. Too many words do Luther no  justice; his music can tell the story and celebrate him better than anyone…RIP Sir Luther, one of the best there EVER was… (April 1951- July 1, 2005)}

Some of my favorites:

“Any Love” (1988)

“Never Too Much” (1981)

“A House is Not a Home (Live)”

“The Glow of Love” (with Change)

{Luther was a wonderful background singer in his own right, and an ace vocal arranger—two of the backup/arrangement performances I love}:

Chaka Khan’s “Papillon” (which Luther had also recorded…but get to 3:13 in this one, listen closely, and hear Luther just melt the backups with his heat…)

David Bowie “Young Americans” — Bowie hired Luther to arrange and sing the muscular and melodic background vocals…sublime Philly Soul by way of Harlem and England…

Stevie Wonder, “Part-Time Lover” — If you listen closely to the ends of Stevie’s choruses, that’s Luther doing that smooth  harmony and the lovely humming riff that starts around 4:15 that closes out the song….

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People ask me which is my absolute favorite Luther performance. It’s impossible to choose, really. But I know this: on dark days I very often found myself going to my stereo and playing this song two, three, four times…It’s a love song, one of the very many Luther recorded in his storied career, but there’s something in it that always makes my heart feel completely open to wise, possible, extraordinary things. Was it Luther’s voice that did it? Maybe. The line, “It all will work out fine”? Maybe. This wasn’t a big Luther hit, but it’s a big one to me…”Make Me a Believer” from 1983’s Busy Body.

{And for a great essay about Luther and his life and music, check out Michael Gonzales’ great piece here…}

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Forever, For Always, For Luther (1951-2005)…A Remembrance…

  1. adam carrington

    My favs from LV:

    Creepin – he would always kill this in concert, esp when he asked his back vox to do multiple Creeps.

    My Sensitivity

    The Night I Fell In Love

  2. I have too many Luther favorites to name in one comment section. I definitely am gonna pull out “Busy Body” this afternoon and listen to “Make Me a Believer”.

    He was-quite simply-the greatest voice of his generation. Not the greatest R&B voice of his generation-the greatest voice PERIOD. What a loss.

    • I agree, man. The greatest voice, period, any genre, any sound. Yes, listen to “Make Me a Believer”…believe me, you’ll wanna play it more than once!

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