Cover image for Luther : the life and longing of Luther Vandross
Luther : the life and longing of Luther Vandross
Seymour, Craig.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : HarperEntertainment, [2004]

Physical Description:
xii, 349 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (chiefly color) ; 24 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML420.V285 S48 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Black History Non-Circ
ML420.V285 S48 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Biography

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On April 16, 2003, Luther Vandross suffered a near-fatal stroke, and the world held its breath. Inside sources said he might never sing again. He was too weak to receive visitors, but cards and good wishes came from Aretha Franklin, David Bowie, Anita Baker, Halle Berry, Patti LaBelle, Jesse Jackson, Burt Bacharach, Bette Midler, Star Jones, Gladys Knight, and Dionne Warwick, among others. With a will to live matched only by the enormous strength and power of his heart, soul, and singing talent, Luther survived and is regaining his voice. This biography is a loving tribute to the man who has entertained millions. Luther remains one of the music industry's most private celebrities. In Luther, the first biography of the hugely popular and beloved singer, Craig Seymour investigates and illuminates Luther's life, from his early obsession with soulful girl groups to the day he was discovered by glam rocker David Bowie to his devastating stroke and inspiring recovery. Seymour explores Luther's elusive sexuality, the taboo question that has plagued him for his entire career. He talks about Luther's yo-yo dieting, and the pain his weight has caused him and those around him. He tells the whole story behind the widely publicized feuds between Luther and R&B icons Aretha Franklin and Anita Baker as well as the group En Vogue. And he frankly and honestly explores the tragedies of Luther's life: the 1986 car crash that killed his best friend and nearly destroyed his career, and the 2003 stroke that almost ended his life. An authentic R&B legend, Luther Vandross is one of the most popular and talented vocalists in the world. His life has been full of pain and love, tragedy and redemption. And now, for the first time ever, Luther gives you a backstage pass into his life and longing.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

In April 2003, Vandross suffered a devastating stroke. When he opened his eyes from his comatose state almost one month later, Vandross added yet one more page to the many chapters in his life: later in the year, his song "Dance with My Father" won a Grammy. Seymour, a music critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, chronicles the mercurial ups and downs of the golden-throated singer in this superficial biography. Seymour recounts Vandross's lifelong love of music and the singer's early infatuations with girl groups, particularly Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles and Dionne Warwick. Vandross enrolled in Western Michigan University, but eventually dropped out to pursue a career as a composer. His first big break came when he met David Bowie and composed the chorus for Bowie's "Young American." Vandross's fame as a composer and backup singer, which he preferred to the spotlight of a soloist, steadily grew until he was producing such acts as Aretha Franklin, Anita Baker and En Vogue. In spite of his success, the singer struggled with his insecurities, which often led him to seek solace in overeating, and he battled obesity and its attendant health problems throughout his career. Vandross's life and career, however, often get lost in Seymour's mini-profiles of the many musicians who helped him along his way. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Seymour, a music critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, has written the first biography (unauthorized) of R&B singer-songwriter Luther Vandross. Drawing on past interviews with his subject as well as new discussions with his friends, colleagues, and associates, he covers the musician's life and career right up to his continuing rehabilitation from a stroke in 2003. Vandross gained fame as a singer's singer through his background vocal work in the 1970s before becoming a Grammy Award-winning star. While the book as a whole is nicely executed, questions about the singer's sexual orientation, which have followed him through the years, are brought up time and time again yet left unresolved. That nagging point aside, this is an enjoyable read about an important force in popular music; Vandross's myriad fans will certainly seek it out. Recommended for all public libraries.-James E. Perone, Mount Union Coll., Alliance, OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Luther The Life and Longing of Luther Vandross Chapter One "Little Miracles (Happen Every Day)" "Hang in there. God is able." -- Aretha Franklin to Luther Vandross following his stroke-induced coma April 16, 2003 It was morning as Max Szadek raced to his boss's apartment. Thoughts ran through his mind while he moved through the Manhattan streets. For ten years, Szadek had worked as personal assistant to R&B superstar Luther Vandross, and he was on his way to accompany the singer to the recording studio. It was a bright spring day, perfect for enjoying the eye-popping view from Luther's new condo overlooking the lush greenery of Central Park. But there was no time for that on this day. There was too much to do -- way too much. Like most entertainers, Luther maintained a full schedule, but the upcoming weeks promised to be especially taxing. The singer, who would turn fifty-two in four days, needed to finish recording his new album to be called Dance with My Father, review tapes for a future live album, and oversee extensive renovations on his apartment. Then there were the gowns he promised to design for Aretha Franklin's farewell tour, a stint as guest judge on the popular TV talent show American Idol, and preparation for a full slate of concert dates. His itinerary also included an appearance at the April opening of the Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis, a fournight gig at the Westbury Music Fair in May, and a headlining spot at the Essence Music Festival in July. More immediately, at the end of the week he had to leave for a lengthy promotional tour touting the new album. The commitments were stacking on top of each other like a house of cards, and Max was going to tell his boss that it had become too much for him, that things were getting out of hand. This was Max's plan upon arriving at the apartment, but he soon discovered that nothing that daywould go as expected. He tried entering the apartment, but the chain was locked from the inside. He knocked and yelled out to Luther. There was no response. At this point, Max began to worry. He called Luther's business manager, Carmen Romano, on his cell phone and described the situation. "What should I do?" Max asked. Carmen, who incidentally had just left Tiffany's where he'd bought Luther a birthday present, told him to break down the door. When Max finally entered the apartment, he found Luther collapsed on the floor. He couldn't move, but he was conscious and made two requests: one was for a glass of water, the other for someone to phone his mother. "Call my momma," he said. "Get my momma." An ambulance came and rushed him to the Weill Cornell Medical Center, which sits along the East River in Upper Manhattan. Upon arriving, Luther opened his eyes once. Then, just as suddenly, he closed them for what would be many weeks. Doctors examined Luther and determined that he had experienced a stroke, or what some clinicians call "a brain attack." However, where most strokes occur because a blood vessel becomes blocked, Luther suffered a more severe, less common kind in which a blood vessel ruptures, filling the brain with fluid, destroying tissue in its path. It's as if the normal blood flow goes haywire, traveling to places it shouldn't go and abandoning spots where it's needed. If this didn't make the situation dire enough, other factors deeply concerned Luther's doctors. For one, he had lost consciousness, an extremely rare occurrence for stroke victims. This made it nearly impossible to check for neurological damage. Second, there was the unfortunate way Luther was found. Chances for recovery dramatically increase if stroke victims receive treatment within three hours, but Luther was alone on his apartment floor for at least seven hours before Max arrived, placing him in increased jeopardy. Soon after Luther's admittance to the hospital, word of his condition started to spread. Of course, this wasn't the first time there had been grim news about Luther's health. In 1986 there were false reports that Luther was near death with AIDS. In 2001 it was wrongly reported that he had died from the condition. Now, sadly, the bad news reports were true. His record company issued a tersely worded statement from his manager, Romano: "Luther Vandross suffered from a stroke on Wednesday, April 16th. He is under medical care and his family and friends are hopeful for a speedy recovery." Other accounts were more graphic. A source in the New York Daily News called the stroke "a major bleed," and added "he may never sing again." A stroke is the worst kind of ailment for a vocalist, especially one with Luther's precision and sensitivity. If the stroke damaged the left side of his brain, it could wipe out his ability to speak. If it affected the right side of the brain, it could impact the way he experiences and perceives emotions. In the days following the stroke, Luther showed few signs of what most would call life. A machine did his breathing, and he was fed by a tube. His birthday came and went on April 20, but still no response. By April 23, a spokeswoman said he was "battling for his life." Luther's mother, Mary Ida Vandross, clocked many hours by her ailing son's bedside. It was a sadly familiar scene for her, helplessly watching a loved one struggle for life. In her seventy-nine years, she had buried her mother, her husband, and all three of her other children: Charles in 1992, Patricia in 1993, and Ann in 1999. The first two died from diabetes, the third from asthma. Now she faced the possibility of losing Luther, her youngest, the baby. It was almost too much to bear. "He has to recover," she said. "He's all I have left. He's my last surviving child." As more people learned about Luther's condition, many of his celebrity friends reached out to support him. Luther The Life and Longing of Luther Vandross . Copyright © by Craig Seymour. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Luther: The Life and Longing of Luther Vandross by Craig Seymour All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.