Grammy winning singer is dead at 54
The emphatic crooner was one of the most famous R & amp;B singers of the time.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Grammy award winner Luther Vandross, whose deep, lush voice on such hits as "Here and Now" and "Any Love" sold more than 25 million albums while providing the romantic backdrop for millions of couples worldwide, died Friday. He was 54.
Vandross died at John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Edison, N.J., said hospital spokesman Rob Cavanaugh. He did not release the cause of death but said in a statement that Vandross "never really recovered from" a stroke two years ago.
Since the stroke in his Manhattan home April 16, 2003, the R & amp;B crooner stopped making public appearances -- but amazingly managed to continue his recording career. In 2004, he captured four Grammys as a sentimental favorite, including best song for the bittersweet "Dance With My Father."
Vandross, who was still in a wheelchair at the time, delivered a videotaped thank you.
"Remember, when I say goodbye it's never for long," said a weak-looking Vandross. "Because" -- he broke into his familiar hit -- "I believe in the power of love."
Vandross also battled weight problems for years while suffering from diabetes and hypertension.
He was arguably the most celebrated R & amp;B balladeer of his generation. He made women swoon with his silky yet forceful tenor, which he often revved up like a motor engine before reaching his beautiful crescendos.
Jeff O'Conner, Vandross' publicist, called his death "a huge loss in the R & amp;B industry. He was a close friend of mine and right now it's shocking."
O'Conner said he received condolence calls Friday from music luminaries such as Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones.
Singer Roberta Flack, on tour in Japan, said she was mourning the loss of her friend of more than 20 years.
"He was a musician who couldn't help but give you all he had," she said by telephone. "He was the kind of guy who was born to do what he did musically and let the world know about it. He was not born to keep it smothered in the chest."
Vandross was a four-time Grammy winner in the best male R & amp;B performance category, taking home the trophy in 1990 for the single "Here and Now," in 1991 for his album "Power of Love," in 1996 for the track "Your Secret Love" and a last time for "Dance With My Father."
The album, with its single of the same name, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts while Vandross remained hospitalized from his stroke. It was the first time a Vandross album had topped the charts in its first week of release.
In 2005, he was nominated for a Soul Train Music Award for a duet with Beyonc & eacute; on "The Closer I Get To You."
Rise to fame
He happily toiled in the musical background for years before he would have his first hit. He wrote songs for projects as varied as a David Bowie album ("Fascination") and the Broadway musical "The Wiz" ("Everybody Rejoice (Brand New Day)"), sang backup for acts such as Donna Summer and Barbra Streisand, and even became a leading commercial jingle singer.
Vandross credited Flack for prodding him to move into the spotlight after listening to one of his future hits, "Never Too Much."
While Vandross was a household name in the black community, he was frustrated by his failure to become a mainstream pop star. Indeed, it took Vandross until 1990 to score his first top 10 hit -- the wedding staple "Here & amp; Now."
The lifelong bachelor never had any children, but doted on his nieces and nephews. The entertainer said his busy lifestyle made marriage difficult; besides, it wasn't what he wanted.