Iconic R&B singer Luther Vandross, whose silky voice was synonymous with romance, died July 1 at the age of 54.
According to CNN, the popular singer suffered a debilitating stroke in April 2003, from which, sources said, Vandross never fully recovered. Even so, his album Dance With My Father sold nearly a million copies in its first month of release that June. The following year, that album won three Grammy Awards, including song of the year for the title track. His eighth Grammy came for a remake of 'The Closer I Get to You' that he sang with Beyonce Knowles.
Vandross died at JFK Medical Center in Edison, N.J., surrounded by family, friends and a medical support team, according to a statement from the hospital.
During his four-decade career, Vandross sold more than 25 million copies, with each one of his 14 albums achieving either platinum or multi-platinum status.
Luther Ronzoni Vandross was born into a New York City family steeped in the traditions of gospel and soul. He began his career writing and performing jingles for TV commercials. After a chance meeting with David Bowie at a recording studio in 1975, Vandross was asked to sing backup on Bowie's album Young Americans. Later, Vandross served as Bowie's opening act and also sang backup for Bette Midler and Barbra Streisand. The New York Daily News noted that, in 1980, Roberta Flack helped him get a contract with Epic; the result was the album Never Too Much. Vandross ended up with dozens of hit singles, including 'Give Me the Reason,' 'Since I Lost My Baby,' 'Power of Love' and the 1989 classic 'Here and Now,' which has become quite popular at weddings and commitment ceremonies.
According to the Chicago Tribune, one of his idols, singer Dionne Warwick, simply called him 'The Voice.' 'There are vocalists, and then there's Luther,' Motown singer-songwriter Smokey Robinson told Rolling Stone magazine in 1990, according to Reuters. 'Luther's in a class by himself.' Answers.com stated that Vandross influenced many of today's contemporary artists, including Alicia Keys, Ruben Studdard and Usher.
There was also speculation about the never-married Vandross's sexuality.
JuiceeNewsDaily.com reported that there were many questions because of his business relationships with producer Marcus Miller and saxophonist Dave Koz, who came out of the closet in 2004.
Vandross struggled with health problems, claiming that he lost 100 pounds a total of 13 times, CNN reported. He suffered from hypertension and diabetes, but refused to slow down until his stroke two years ago.