Luther Vandross’ 70th Birthday Celebrated With Google Doodle Animation

Luther Vandross was one of the greatest singers — not just R&B singers — of the past 50 years, and Google has fittingly paid tribute to him with an original Google Doodle animation.  With Vandross’ 1981 debut solo single “Never Too Much” serving as the soundtrack, viewers are taken on a colorful trip through highlights of the singer’s career.

Also in observation of Vandross’ birthday, Legacy Recordings, the catalog division of Sony Music Entertainment, announces the RIAA certification of four of his signature singles: “Dance With My Father” (Platinum), “Here and Now” (Platinum), “Endless Love” (Platinum) and “A House Is Not A Home” (Gold).

“It is a true reflection of Luther Vandross’ musical legacy around the world to be honored by Google with an animated Doodle that fittingly captures the joy Luther has brought the world,” reads a statement from his estate. “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 to the level Luther did for over 35 years, and to have Google broadcast that around the world is a wonderful showcase of his immeasurable talent.”

Born in New York on April 20, 1951, Luther Ronzoni Vandross Jr. was raised in a musical family and showed talent early, teaching himself to play piano by ear. His elder sisters took him to concerts by Aretha Franklin and Dionne Warwick, and before long his was performing at the Apollo Theater’s legendary amateur nights. He soon began working as a backing singer with artists like Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway, but a major break came with his appearance on David Bowie’s “Young Americans” album and tour; Bowie adopted Vandross’ song “Funky Music” into the album track “Fascination.” He continued working as a session musician and singing jingles and finally made his breakthrough as a frontman with the group Change. He recorded a pair of albums with the group before breaking out on his own in 1981 with “Never Too Much.”

After all those years of grinding, success came quickly: Other hits over the next 20 years include “Here and Now,” “Any Love,” “Power of Love/Love Power,” “I Can Make It Better,” and duets with Cheryl Lynn, Mariah Carey and Janet Jackson. He received eight Grammy awards.

Many members of Vandross’ family died young, and after a long history of diabetes and hypertension, he suffered a stroke in 2003 and died after suffering a heart attack in 2005.