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Last Updated: Friday, 18 April, 2003, 15:13 GMT 16:13 UK
R&B star's climb to success
Luther Vandross
Luther Vandross enjoyed huge success in the 1980s and 1990s
R&B singer Luther Vandross is recovering after suffering a stroke. BBC News Online looks back at his career.

Born in New York on 20 April 1951, Luther Vandross' stroke came just days before his 52nd birthday.

His family loved gospel and soul music, and he grew up listening to the music of Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross and Dionne Warwick.

He formed a group at school, which performed at Harlem's Apollo Theatre, while his first breakthrough came in 1972, when his song Everybody Rejoice (A Brand New Day) featured in Broadway musical The Wiz.

Two years later, a friend asked him along to join recording sessions for David Bowie's Young Americans.

Bowie was so taken with his talents, he asked Vandross to arrange the vocals and sing many of the backing vocals.

He also invited Vandross to support him on tour. Here, he met Bette Midler, who he also toured with as a backing vocalist.

By the mid-1970s, Vandross was one of the industry's most popular session singers and vocal arrangers.

He performed for Barbra Streisand, Ringo Starr, Chaka Khan and the Average White Band.


In 1975, he formed his own group, Luther, and recorded two albums, although they both flopped.

But his session work continued, as did a sideline in making advertising jingles, and was the lead vocalist on disco hits The Glow Of Love by Change and Hot Butterfly by Bionic Boogie.

I exercise five days a week, eat 1,000 calories a day, and there ain't nothin' wrong with me - I sure sing good for a dead man!
Vandross in 2000
His debut solo album came in 1981 after signing with Epic Records, and Never Too Much began a decade of chart-topping albums and singles.

Vandross continued to lend his skills to other artists, writing and producing for Whitney Houston, Teddy Pendergrass, Cheryl Lynn and his youthful favourites, Aretha Franklin and Dionne Warwick.

Grammy winner

He won his first Grammy in 1990 with the single Here and Now, winning five more the following year with The Power Of Love/Love Power.

The early 1990s saw two of his biggest UK singles - The Best Things In Life Are Free was a number two hit for him and Janet Jackson, while his 1994 duet with Mariah Carey, Endless Love, reached number three.

His career slowed later in the 1990s, sales fell and he parted company with Epic.

His 1998 album I Know, released with EMI, was a minor hit, but later signed with J Records, an imprint set up by Arista Records founder Clive Davis.

He also shed his bulky frame thanks to a new health and fitness routine - leading to one rumour in 2000 that he had actually died.

"I exercise five days a week, eat 1,000 calories a day, and there ain't nothin' wrong with me - I sure sing good for a dead man!" he told crowds at a US festival.

But he admitted his excess weight had led to diabetes and hypertension.

In 2002 he won his seventh American Music Award when he was named favourite male soul/R&B artist.

His latest album, Dance With My Father, is scheduled to be released in the US on 10 June, featuring duets with Destiny's Child singer Beyonce Knowles and Busta Rhymes.

Luther Vandross suffers stroke
18 Apr 03  |  Entertainment

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