Luther died on the same day as Band 8, which meant his leaving us was placed as second best to a bunch of untalented hacks flogging their dubious credibility at the later of the charity dollar; dollar value to their own careers.
Those of us who had been fans of Luther recognised and acknowledged his passing as he was, to his devoted fan base, simply irreplaceable. Loved by Soul Boys, Manhattanites, Urban Funksters and Essex boys alike his was a loyal following. The type of following that is hard to explain to those on the outside of the African American musical experience and in particular the club scene.
Luther was, like many of his contemporaries, all about the work. His early career started at the Apollo Harlem and
Sesame Street appearances in the 60s. He then went on to being a session singer with Bowie, Diana Ross, Tod Rundgren, Roberta Flack, Donna Summer, Carly Simon and Chic among others, then to songwriter, to member of Soul Band Change to solo career and duets with everyone who was anyone in the industry.
Nominated 23 times for a Grammy and winning 8 times, Luther was much admired within the business and like many a great singer before him he was a troubled soul. Weight gain and weight loss were his addictions and his involvement in a fatal car crash in 1985 had a profound effect on him.
Luther’s popularity in the
UK was down to his legendary concerts where he would deliver outstanding vocal performances and his annual appearances this side of the Atlantic where always sell outs, such was the loyalty of his audience. UK
I attended a memorable concert of Luther’s at Wembley Arena in 1986. It was the opening night of his ‘Give me the reason’
tour. At this point in his career the stadium was full of his hardcore following and the buzz was immense. Luther carried the weight of an opera singer for much of his career and so it felt like a massive presence was about to entertain us. UK
The prospect of seeing the consummate professional had the stadium charged. The thing of it was that the American artists had that glamour and professionalism that made their visits special. As far back as Judy Garland and Danny Kaye
UK audiences loved to see the Pros from the . USA
The lights dimmed and the opening bars of Give me the reason rang out. Luther’s voice could be heard but no sign of him. Then, like a boxer entering the ring he appeared; slim, confident, mobile and electric. He took the stage and had the crowd in the palm of his hand with amazing vocals and an old school glittering showbiz performance.
Those that think of Luther’s music as bland are wrong; Smooth certainly, never bland. His vocal pyrotechnics were matched by his subtlety.
Often the subtlety of soul music is overlooked by those judgemental of commercialism but those who grew up listening to Luther have a deeper appreciation of his talents. He captured the affluent African American experience with hard work, showmanship and consummate professionalism and above all amazing talent and the voice of an angel. That Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, Patti Labelle and Cissy Huston performed at his funeral; says all you need to know. Loved by his peers and adored by his loyal fans.
Luther Vandross never too much