Luther Vandross facts: Soul singer's age, partner, songs and death explained

31 December 2020, 10:41 | Updated: 31 December 2020, 10:43

Luther Vandross
Luther Vandross. Picture: Getty

Luther Vandross was one of the most talented and loved soul singers of all time.

With songs such as 'Dance With My Father' and 'Never Too Much', his powerful and soothing voice earned him millions of fans around the world.

But where was Luther Vandross born and was he ever married? Here's all the important facts about the legendary artist:

  1. Where was Luther Vandross born?

    Luther Vandross
    Luther Vandross. Picture: Getty

    Luther Vandross was born on April 20, 1951.

    Full name Luther Ronzoni Vandross Jr, he was born in the Kips Bay area of Manhattan, New York City.

    He was the fourth child and second son of parents Mary Ida Vandross and Luther Vandross, Sr. His father was an upholsterer and singer, while his mother was a nurse.

    Luther's father died of diabetes when the singer was just eight years old. In 2003, he wrote the song 'Dance with My Father' as a tribute to him, based on his childhood memories and his mother's stories of the family singing and dancing in the house.

  2. How did he get his start in music?

    At the age of three, with his own phonograph, Luther taught himself to play the piano by ear.

    At high school, Luther founded the first Patti LaBelle fan club, of which he was president. He also performed in a group called Shades of Jade.

    As well as performing at amateur nights, he also in several episodes of the first season of Sesame Street in 1969-1970.

    He began providing backing vocals to artists in the early 1970s, including Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway, and started writing songs for other artists.

    Luther co-wrote 'Fascination' for David Bowie and went on tour with him as a backing singer, and wrote the song 'Everybody Rejoice' for the Broadway musical The Wiz.

    As the 1970s went on, he continued singing backing vocals for artists such as Chaka Khan, Bette Midler, Diana Ross, Carly Simon, Barbra Streisand, Ringo Starr, Sister Sledge, and Donna Summer.

    Read more: The 10 greatest Luther Vandross songs ever

    Luther also wrote and sang commercial jingles from 1977 until the early 1980s, for companies such as Mountain Dew, KFC, Burger King, and Juicy Fruit.

    It wasn't until 1980 that Luther finally made his career breakthrough as a singer with the pop-dance act Change, who scored hits with 'The Glow of Love' and 'Searching'.

    After leaving the group, Luther released hus debut album Never Too Much in 1981, and the rest is history.

  3. Was Luther Vandross married and did he have children?

    Luther Vandross and close friend Patti LaBelle
    Luther Vandross and close friend Patti LaBelle. Picture: Getty

    Luther Vandross was never married and had no children before he died. Sadly, his older siblings all died before him, meaning that his mother outlived all her children.

    Though he never publicly came out as gay during his lifetime, some of his close friends and colleagues have stated that he was.

    According to friend Bruce Vilanch, Luther had his longest romantic relationship with a man while living in Los Angeles during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

    In December 2017, his friend Patti LaBelle also confirmed that Vandross was gay.

  4. When did Luther Vandross die?

    Luther Vandross suffered from diabetes and hypertension during his lifetime.

    In April 2003, he had a severe stroke at his home in New York City, and was in a coma for almost two months. Tragically, the stroke left him unable to speak and sing for a period, and meant he had to use a wheelchair.

    Read more: The Story of... 'Dance With My Father' by Luther Vandross

    At the 2004 Grammy Awards, Luther appeared in a pre-recorded video to accept his Song of the Year Award for 'Dance with My Father', where he said: "When I say goodbye it's never for long, because I believe in the power of love", with him singing the last six words..

    Luther Vandross died on July 1, 2005, at the age of 54, after a heart attack.

    His funeral was held at Riverside Church in New York City on July 8, 2005. Cissy Houston, mother of Whitney Houston, sang at the service.

    Luther's mother Mary Ida Vandross, died in 2008.