Performing Arts

Never Too Much: 10 hits playlist of iconic singers best songs ahead of documentary release

Luther

Luther Vandross. FILE PHOTO | POOL

Luther Vandross, the influential American soul singer possessed a distinct voice that made his music the soundtrack to the lives of generations of fans around the world. Never Too Much, a long-awaited full-length film that reveals little-known details about the life of the singer, songwriter and producer, who died in 2005 at the age of 54, premieres at the Sundance Film Festival, in the US this weekend.

As a build-up to the eagerly anticipated documentary, the BD Life curated a playlist of 10 essential hits from the Luther Vandross catalogue.

Never Too Much

It is no surprise that the upcoming documentary is titled after this signature Luther Vandross hit, an upbeat song and the title track from his 1981 debut solo album.

After years as a backup singer for superstars like Diana Ross, David Bowie, Dionne Warwick, Chaka Khan, and David Bowie, and just a year after recording The Glow of Love, with the group Change, Luther announced his arrival as a solo star with this irresistible groove.

Give Me the Reason

This gem from 1986, the title track of his fifth studio album, marks the most prolific stage of Luther’s career. The album contained many of the songs that became his definitive hits, including So Amazing, I Really Didn’t Mean It and There’s Nothing Better Than Love.

The tale of moving on from romantic heartbreak was also featured on the soundtrack to the film Ruthless People and earned him two Grammy Award nominations.

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If Only for One Night

Late-night music at its finest with one of Luther’s finest ballads about a nostalgic yearning for love. The song was originally recorded by Brenda Russell in 1979 but Luther made it all his own with a warm and emotional delivery, for his 1985 album The Night I Fell in Love. It was one of his concert favourites and particularly powerful when improvised on stage as a duet with his friend Patti Labelle.

Here and Now

Another sensual signature tune showcasing the famous ‘velvet voice’ released on the 1989 album Any Love and ranks highly as a wedding favourite because of its tender commitment to everlasting love. This was the song that earned Luther his first Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance in 1991.

Power of Love/Love Power

The title track of Luther’s 1991 album is a medley of two songs, Power of Love co-written with his long-time collaborator Marcus Miller and Love Power a 1968 song by the R&B group The Sandpebbles. The highlight is Luther accompanied by a choral ensemble in a rousing call-and-answer climax. Heavenly!

Your Secret Love

Another slick Luther mid-tempo romantic gem and the title track from his 1996 album. As the R&B sound changed from the big ballads of the 80s into the hard-edged style of New Jack Swing, Luther’s style too evolved, while never letting the instrumentation distract from his trademark voice. The song earned him a Grammy for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance in 1997.

The Best Things in Life Are Free (duet with Janet Jackson)

The ability of a singer whose voice is typically associated with tender love songs to adapt to a scorching dance track was tested here. Luther combined superbly with Janet Jackson for this high-energy song produced by the iconic duo of Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam from the soundtrack to the film Mo’ Money.

Released in 1992 with several club remixes, the song became a major hit across the world and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.

Dance With My Father

This intensely personal song by Luther Vandross and one that he described as his "career song” was issued as the title track to his 2003 album.

He co-wrote this tune with Richard Marx (of Right Here Waiting fame) about childhood memories of his father who died of diabetes when Luther was just 8.

To add to the poignancy, the song was released at a time when Luther was hospitalised after suffering from a severe stroke. It won Song of the Year and Best Male R&B Vocal Performance at the 2004 Grammy Awards.

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So Amazing

Luther and his longtime collaborator Marcus Miller wrote the song originally for Dionne Warwick in 1983. But as Luther would do with cover versions, three years later, he re-recorded the song giving it a sensual appeal that has made it a favorite across generations.

If this World Were Mine (duet with Cheryl Lynn)

Luther was a master of the duet, and his catalogue contains some stellar collaborations, from Aretha Franklin to Dionne Warwick, Mariah Carey to Beyonce. There was pure magic when he got together with Cheryl Lynn on her 1982 album Instant, with this cover of a 1967 Motown classic by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell.

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