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Happy Birthday, Luther Vandross!

Luther Vandross
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

There’s no shortage of good R&B performers today. But stellar, pure singers in the mainstream? That’s not easy to find. Luther Vandross was arguably one of the last truly great R&B singers. He would’ve turned 66 today (April 20).

Vandross started his career with various background contributions and songwriting credits. They included Chaka Khan, David Bowie, Ben E. King, Diana Ross and Donna Summer. After two failed albums as the leader of the soul group Luther in the late ’70s, Vandross wrote commercial jingles for Mountain Dew, Juicy Fruit and others. He also landed hits with the producer-driven group Change.

But someone as talented as Vandross was destined for more. Vandross finally found success with Epic Records when he signed as a solo artist in 1981. His solo debut, Never Too Much, was released that year. Written and produced almost entirely by Vandross, it was a success; the title track hit No. 33 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the album eventually went double platinum despite low initial sales. “Never Too Much” also managed to reach No. 1 on the Billboard R&B chart.

With the exception of 1998’s I Know, every Vandross album achieved platinum certification. Of course, his legacy doesn’t rest with numbers. His lush voice had the ability to soothe no matter what emotion he was conveying. It’s why he has so many memorable songs. And he was one of the most gifted songwriters and producers in music; penning hits like Aretha Franklin’s “Jump To It,” the classic “Brand New Day” from The Wiz and his own chart-burners like “Don’t You Know That” and “There’s Nothing Better Than Love.”

Sadly, the entertainer’s ability to share his talents with the world was cut short when he died on July 1, 2005 from a heart attack after also suffering from diabetes. Over a decade since his passing, Luther Vandross’ legacy is intact with such timeless music.

Watch Luther Vandross’ “Never Too Much” Video

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