Why Aren’t They In The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Luther Vandross

If I had told you there was a R&B singer who had sold in the neighborhood of 30 million copies, and every one of whose albums had gone at least gold, a few of them multi-platinum, and had achieved multiple #1 hits on the R&B charts and had even crossed over to have several top ten pop hits, you would think that such an artist would be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for sure, right?  What if I said in addition to his own hit success that a sample of his had been on a top 10 hit by rapper Jay-Z and that he had won multiple Grammys as a musician and songwriter and that he had scored notable duets with singers as diverse as Mariah Carey [1], Dionne Warwick, Janet Jackson [2], Stevie Wonder, Beyoncè, and Gregory Hines.  Surely this sort of collaborative and cross-format appeal would guarantee an induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, right?  In fact, it would not, as I am describing some of the career highlights of Luther Vandross.  Are you surprised?  You shouldn’t be.  He was one of the foremost R&B divas of the 1980’s, with a period of sustained album success from 1981 to 2003, from his very debut until his death, and if his career has often been unjustly neglected, let it not be said that his achievements are not recognized, even those he might not wish for.  Here is an artist who deserves a lot more recognition for a career of immense success, even if it was filled with a great deal of private suffering.

The Influence Of Luther Vandross

When Jay-Z was looking for a sample to brighten up what would become a top 10 hit in “Excuse Me Miss,” he chose to sample Luther Vandross’ single “Take You Out,” which hit the top 40.  When Mariah Carey was looking for a duet partner for her cover version of “Endless Love,” she did it with Luther Vandross and it went to #2 on the charts in the US and #3 in the UK.  When the producers of the soundtrack for the movie Mo’ Money were looking for a smash group collaboration, Luther Vandross along with Janet Jackson, Bel Biv Devoe, and Ralph Tresvant teamed up for a stellar performance in “The Best Things In Life Are Free [3].”  In all of these cases we see the talent of Luther Vandross moving across the genre boundaries that one would think for an R&B vocalist from the 1980’s and 1990’s, an age whose R&B has been critically neglected despite the presence of numerous talented artists [4].  Over and over again, in album after album, Luther Vandross showed a great deal of soul and an ability to connect with a core audience who appreciated his sensitive songs about his family and his own secret loves as well as audiences who appreciated his ability to blend well with harder-edged artists as well.

Why Luther Vandross Belongs In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

One does not need to include Luther Vandross, whose career was cut off due to poor health during his prime when he had recorded a multi-platinum smash with the self-titled single “Dance With My Father” as a nod to affirmative action or as a sympathy vote for an artist who had more successful albums in him if he had had the time to release them.  No, Luther Vandross has earned this honor on his own merits, including three solo crossover top 10 hits (“Here And Now,” “Power Of Love/Love Power,” and “Don’t Want To Be A Fool”), three more top ten collaborations already mentioned, and seven #1 hits on the Rap/R&B charts (some of the foregoing along with “Never Too Much,” “Stop To Love,” “There’s Nothing Better Than Love,” and “Any Love”).  When one looks at his albums, the record of consistent success is even more obvious, with all of his studio albums going at least gold and all but one of them going platinum or multiplatinum over the course of a career that lasted more than twenty years:  Never Too Much (double platinum), Forever, For Always, For Love (platinum), Busy Body (platinum), The Night I Fell In Love (double platinum), Give Me The Reason (double platinum), Any Love (platinum), Power Of Love (double platinum), Never Let Me Go (platinum), Songs (double platinum), Your Secret Love (platinum), I Know (gold), Luther Vandross (platinum), and Dance With My Father (double platinum).  Add to these studio albums a triple platinum, two platinum, and two gold compilation albums and a platinum holiday album and one has a career with obviously sufficient success to merit induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Why Luther Vandross Isn’t In The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

It doesn’t appear as if Luther Vandross is being dogged by rumors about his sexuality, since he was never known to have any relationships with women and he kept his personal life private enough to lead to speculation that he was a closeted homosexual [5].  More likely, it is the fact that he belongs to a largely neglected and forgotten generation of R&B singers that accounts for the fact that he has not received an honor that far lesser artists have received.  Can a man be blamed for the time period in which he lives, and in which he practices his art, particularly a velvet voiced tenor like Luther Vandross whose songs appear destined to endure for decades?

Verdict:  Put him in.  He’s waited long enough.

[1] https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/02/01/why-arent-they-in-the-rock-roll-hall-of-fame-mariah-carey/

[2] https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2013/08/11/why-arent-they-in-the-rock-roll-hall-of-fame-janet-jackson/

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luther_Vandross_discography

[4] See, for example, the aforementioned Janet Jackson and Mariah Carey as well as the following:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/02/04/why-arent-they-in-the-rock-roll-hall-of-fame-whitney-houston/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2016/06/22/why-arent-they-in-the-rock-roll-hall-of-fame-tony-toni-tone/

[5] See, for example:

Weinstein, Steve (April 2006). “The Secret Gay Life of Luther Vandross”. Out. pp. 60–64.

Advertisements

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in History, Music History, Musings and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s