Luther Vandross: who was the American singer-songwriter and why is Google celebrating him with a Doodle?

Vandross was known for songs such as Never Too Much, Dance With My Father and Power of Love/Love Power

In honour of what would have been the 70th birthday of Luther Vandross, Google is honouring the Grammy Award winning singer with his very own Google Doodle and short animated film celebrating his legacy.

This is everything you need to know about the American singer and songwriter.

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What is the Google Doodle?

Luther Vandross earned himself the nickname Velvet Voice over the course of his career (Photo: Google/Sam Bass/Steve W Grayson/Online USA/Getty)

The Doodle features Vandross wearing a blue suit and singing into a microphone, with head replacing the first O in the Google logo, and the second O featuring a play icon.

If you click on the Doodle, viewers are treated to a short animated film, featuring Vandross singing one of his best known songs Never Too Much.

The film highlights many of the singers career milestones, such as performing at the Apollo Theatre, appearing on Sesame Street and writing jingles.

Who is Luther Vandross?

Luther Vandross was a popular American singer and songwriter, who boasted multi platinum albums, Grammy Awards and collaborations with some of the biggest names in music.

Vandross was born on 20 April 1951 in New York City, to parents Luther Vandross Sr and Mary Ida Vandross. He was the fourth child, and second son, of the two.

At a young age, Vandross taught himself to play piano by ear, and at the age of 13 he began writing his own songs.

After high school, Vandross showcased his music at Amateur Night at Harlem’s Apollo Theatre, and while he never won first place, he joined the theatre’s performing arts group Listen My Brother Revue, who sang on the 1969 pilot episode of Sesame Street. This is what gave Vandross his first taste of widespread exposure.

His next big break occurred when his original song Everybody Rejoice was featured in the 1974 Broadway musical The Wiz, which would later be adapted into an Academy Award winning film.

From there, Vandross was able to collaborate with big name artists like David Bowie, Ringo Starr, Whitney Houston, and Ben E King. He also landed major gigs singing jingles for brands such as Juicy Fruit.

Vandross launched a successful solo career in 1981 with the release of his album Never Too Much, and between 1981 and 2004, Vandross would release a total of 13 studio albums, earning the nickname Velvet Voice along the way.

Throughout his career, Vandross embarked on world wide tours, and in 1989 he became the first male artist to sell out 10 consecutive shows at London’ Wembley Arena.

When did he die?

Vandross passed away on 1 July 2005 at the age of 54 from a heart attack. A few years earlier, in 2003, Vandross suffered from a severe stroke and was in a coma for almost two months.

Unfortunately, the stroke affected his ability to speak and sing, and required him to use a wheelchair. Vandross also suffered from diabetes and hypertension.

His last public appearance was on 6 May 2004, on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

His funeral took place at the Riverside Church in New York City on 8 July 2005. Vandross was entombed at the George Washington Memorial Park in New Jersey.

What songs was he best known for?

Vandross was known for a huge number of songs, including:

- Dance with My Father

- Never Too Much

- Endless Love (ft Mariah Carey)

- Here and Now

- The Best Things in Life Are Free (ft Janet Jackson)

- So Amazing

- How Many Times Can We Say Goodbye (ft Dionne Warwick)

- Stop to Love

- Power of Love/Love Power

- Give Me the Reason

Over the course of his career, Vandross was nominated for 33 Grammy Awards, and managed to bag eight of them.

He also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, performed at the 1997 Super Bowl halftime show and made eight Billboard Top 10 albums.

Who made the Doodle?

The Doodle dedicated to Vandross was illustrated and animated by Atlanta artist Sam Bass.

Bass said that “during a time with so many horrible things in the news, it’s great to get to do something like that”.

The artist explained that he wanted to make colour “an important part of the visual story”.

“I’m personally inspired by colour. I love the things that you can do visually with contrast, saturation, and hue,” Bass said.

When asked what message he hoped people would take from the Doodle, Bass said: “Joy.

“While working on this project I had a lot of feelings, but the main one was joy. It was so much fun getting to figure out ways to make each moment in the video feel intimate and a part of the overall story.

“I was creating small vignettes about togetherness, all types of love, nostalgia, and happiness - all while listening to an iconic song on repeat!”

What did the Vandross family say about the Doodle?

The singers family released a statement regarding the Google Doodle, calling it “a wonderful showcase of his immeasurable talent”.

The statement said: “It is a true reflection of Luther Vandross’s musical legacy around the world to be honoured by Google with an animated video Doodle that fittingly captures the joy Luther has brought to the world.

“Luther made each of his songs about one simple, universal subject - love; an emotion and feeling common to the human experience no matter who you are, where you’re from or what you look like.

“No one else has expressed this emotion, in song, at the level Luther did for over 35 years.

“To have Google broadcast that around the world is a wonderful showcase of his immeasurable talent.”