“Searching, searching. I just wanted to dance…”
The art of making love…is definitely an abstract art. What stimulates and pleases you may differ from my personal desires, but one thing we can come to a consensus on is that good and great love making music definitely accentuates the affair. Even I, wordsmith extraordinaire, cannot accurately word the feeling that good love making music brings to love making. Youngn’s, I can’t call it. Most of the music I hear today in the R&B department is underwhelming, to say the extreme least. There are some good artists out there who make good love making music, but they have subjected themselves to a format that forces them to be overly sexual and even explicit. I fux with Jodeci and Robert Kelly since back when, as most of all us do, but their sons and grandsons have largely failed to accurately mirror that same classy yet raunchy grandeur that made their music accepted, loved, and even tasteful (different strokes for different folks). Most just make tasteless, corny, contrived material that sounds ridiculous. But once upon a time, good love making music was superfluous; it was a staple of an R&B artist. The list of greats goes on and on, but my subject of discussion tonight is the great, late Luther Vandross.
Born in the greatest city on earth, Luther sang background vocals for heavy hitters as well as commercial jingles as a young adult. He served first as president of Patti LaBelle’s fan club, then as a backup singer. Legend has it that it was Patti who pushed a young Luther out of the nest; she foresaw his eminent greatness. In 1980, he joined a pop-dance group named Change, assembled by businessman/producer Jacques Fred Petrus. His voice exploded onto the music scene with the group’s second single, “Searching” (shouts to my brogod @melvvillain for the motivation for this blog), a medley which still amazes me to this very day. For me, it’s the exuberance in Luther’s voice that does it. It’s just like the first time I heard Mary J. sing “You Remind Me.” It’s that eager young happiness, that “I’m here” spirit that makes you take notice. You know at that exact moment that you first hear it that it’s a game changer. That’s what Luther’s voice brought to the R&B world. After another great single in “Glow of Love,” Luther decided to part ways with Petrus and Change, seeking a just pay day. He signed with Epic Records and released his debut album, “Never Too Much” (my personal favorite project outside the Best of… double disk), and the rest is history. He dropped the title track along with the oft forgotten gem “Don’t You Know That?” and one of his signature covers, the iconic “A House Is Not a Home.” These three singles are examples of what endeared Luther to us: the feel good party/cookout anthem, the A-1 contemporary radio love song, and the domineering power ballad. From there Luther’s star continued to ascend into the strata, with songs like “If This World Were Mine,” “Any Love,” “Bad Boy/Having a Party,” “Promise Me,” “Superstar/Until You Come Back to Me,” “So Amazing,” and “Love Won’t Let Me Wait,” to name a few. Then, in 1989 (mid-career), he dropped a compilation album titled The Best of Luther Vandross…The Best of Love, a menagerie of greatest hits up to that point. The compilation included a new track titled “Here and Now,” which immediately became a fixture in weddings of diverse cultures. This was the start of several Grammy Awards that reached an apex in 2003 when his album “Dance With My Father” basically took every R&B Grammy on the books that year, including best R&B song and album for the title track and LP. Sadly, we lost Luther on 7.1.05, months after a stroke that abruptly and effectively ended his career.
Almost every Black child my age was raised on Luther; many Black children born five to ten years after me were likely conceived to “Loofa’s” music. To me, there are a handful of male voices in the history of R&B music that immediately claim your attention when their music is played: Sam Cooke, Bobby Womack, Jackie Wilson, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonderful (my favorite in any genre), Donny Hathaway, and Luther. These men have the ability to stop you in mid-sentence, mid-step, no matter where you are or what you’re going through at that particular moment you hear one of their classics. What made Luther so special, to me, is how he dominated the ‘80s. Marvin passed in ’84; hip hop in NYC had already begun to dominate Black culture. The ‘80s was a hustle decade, yet Luther managed to forge his own niche in Black music. So many of my good childhood memories have a Luther track playing somewhere in the background, because he was always being played in my household. And who will ever forget “Bad Boy/Having a Party” as the open to the Black classic film House Party? None of us will. I’d like to thank the Vvillain once more for the motivation for this blog, as well as my mommy Shareon for introducing me to the dominant voice of my lifetime. That’s all for now, folks. Catch me on the blocks, either the 4th Ward of Englewood or those 100Blocks of Harlem and the X.
Send all love/hate mail to email@example.com. Follow me on the Twitter @tymonday, where these type discussions/debates/arguments are held daily. Also follow my brogod and partner @themisterceizzo and our team, @crewunB. Shouts to my nigga @TerrellMacklin just cuz he’s been a supporter of everything pertaining to us from jump. That’s family right there. Be sure to scoop some of our fly apparel when you finish this blog. Prepare for an unBearable summer.