Luther Vandross Dies At Age 54

Legendary vocalist Luther Vandross, whose music crossed over into the smooth jazz genre, was one of the best.

LutherVandross_bw.gifThe music world lost one of its biggest stars on July 1 when the legendary Luther Vandross died at age 54. Luther, who suffered a debilitating stroke on April 16, 2003, died at JFK Medical Center in Edison, New Jersey, at 1:47 p.m. ET, surrounded by family, friends and a medical support team, a statement from the hospital said.

Ironically, earlier on July 1 a free concert in New York City honored the continuing legacy of Vandross. The concert was sponsored by Divabetic, a diabetes-awareness organization inspired by Vandross with the encouragement and support of Luther�s mother, Mary Ida Vandross.

"You know, Luther always was careful to say that it�s not how you sing that makes the difference," remembers saxophonist Kirk Whalum, who performed on many of Vandross' CDs. "In other words, what inflections you use or what cute little riffs you might sing or, you know, any of that. It�s really the sound of your voice that impacts people. And I think that�s another way of saying that it�s really God�s gift that really impacts people."

Luther, of course, has had numerous top hits, such as �Any Love,� �Stop to Love,� �Give Me the Reason,� �Here and Now� and many, many others.

His last album, "Dance With My Father" sold about 442,000 units in its first week of release ending June 15, 2003, according to industry retail monitor Nielsen SoundScan.

In July 2004, the GRP label released �Forever, For Always, For Luther,� which featured some of the biggest names in smooth jazz lending their talents to a tribute album in honor of Vandross. The first single from that album, �Your Secret Love� by saxophonist Richard Elliot, went all the way to No. 1 on the smooth jazz charts.

And earlier this year, it was announced that record label mogul Clive Davis was planning another tribute to Vandross, this time on his Arista label, which Luther was signed to. In another tribute to Vandross, over the Memorial Day weekend, several Smooth Jazz performers united in tribute to the great singer on a special live tour called Forever, For Always, For Luther. The tour, produced by Vandross�s good friend Rex Rideout and Art Good of the nationally syndicated JazzTrax radio show, starred saxophonist Kirk Whalum, keyboardist Brian Culbertson, guitarist Paul Jackson Jr. and vocalist Lalah Hathaway.

The concert also was performed June 18 in Bear Bear Lake, California, and will be a big part of the 19th annual Catalina Island JazzTrax Festival in October.