Banter on Tulips and a Tribe Called Quest, Jay-Z and John Coltrane, Outkast and Othello.


Requiem for our Maestro

When I heard the news, courtesy of my brother, it hit me like a thud to my chest. *Deep breath* Oh no. Not Luthah.

Even though legendary crooner Luther Vandross had been sick for some time, it's like I thought he'd always be here. And now, I'm sad--perhaps hypocritically so. Because, very few of us outside of Mary Ida really knew the real person inside of that velvet tenor, the boisterous jeweled jacket-donning showman, the gifted songwriter and arranger. The man whose voice we loved through weight gains and losses, through personal scares of stroke and sickness, through his and our lives. And yet, it seems superficial. How dare we moan and groan when we indeed we can't answer the questions of what his favorite color was or what he liked to cook most or even what his most enjoyed song was? Did we know what TV shows he watched, or whether he was quiet or gregarious at home? Or, how was it to be the man, that crazy uncle in the Nutty Professor, called da' black Pavarotti? I wonder what it was like of knowing that somewhere in America at any given moment a child was being conceived by the power of your vocal chords? LOL Or that a past couple somewhere else was split apart, listening to you, reminiscing on a love that they once had? That must have been some pressure, some responsibility. But, he carried it so very well. So well, that he left a legacy admirable by any standard that will carry generations through the ebbs and flows of the lives of those just scratchin' and survivin' to those enjoying the spoils of glamourous life. So, I wanted to remember Luthah as he sang it best, forever, for always, for love.

It was So Amazing, the first time I recall him singing. I was in the second or third grade and piled into a white station wagon with a play aunt of mine and a bunch of her kids. We were on the way to Sesame Place in Langhorne, Pennsylvania for summer fun. I'm pretty certain someone got their hide tore up on the way there (I can't remember who, but this aunt was notorious for threatening to pull the car over to whoop somebody's behind and usually lived up to her promises LOL). But, besides the preponderance of bad behind kids in the seats around me, what I remember most clearly is the radio."Stop to Love" was on and the "He touched my neck/ Stop kicking me/When are we getting there?!!" craziness momentarily abetted for us to all sing along as if Mr. Vandross was the guest vocalist at our moveable Romp-a-Room. *singing* "I love you stop. Stop! I still love you stop. Stop!"

Growing up in the years since, I often listened for Luther at family cookouts. Like fried chicken and potato salad, he never failed to appear. Sure there were also the Temptations, William "Smokey" Robinson and a little Dennis Edwards blasting from the box. But he was always there, Creepin' into the rotation--once, twice, maybe three times in an hour. But, it was Never Too Much to hear him belt out "skibbety dibbety dee dee (Well alright!) in Bad Boy/Having a Party or sing, "We are one having fun, walking in the Glow of Love." But for me, even more than singing along with Luther in a crowd, it was easier to be a Superstar in my room with a broom/paper towel roll as a mike. With my Teddy Ruxpin and black Barbies as my only audience, there were no pressures of constant tour dates, of always having to be perfect for adoring fans with an Endless Love for your music. Fans, who though they meant well, always wanted you to give them yourself, even when you were worn out/ sick/ tired "If Only for One Night, one more perfect song, they'd beg. Surely, Anyone Who Had a Heart would have told them to back off just a little and would have made Luther slow down a bit. Rest a little. Take five like Dave Brubeck. But it seems as though this was his calling--to give the wonderful music we craved and then journey on to the next life. Each Brand New Day he was granted, he gave us more. And though many of tunes were about matters of the heart, the topic never seemed old. It's probably because in life, as he sang, there's Nothing Better Than Love. Now, it wasn't always pretty. All of us can recall times past where A House is Not a Home touched a chord as my man sang softly, then belted, "Now and then, I call your name and suddenly your face appears, but it's just a crazy gae-eee-ame. When it ends, it ends in tears." And though his other popular tunes never really delved into the deep confusion that love sometimes leaves, he did help others tap into the underbelly of the word. His catchy "Da-da-dup, Dup-dup, Da-da-da-dup" scatting famously marked Stevie's classic "Part-Time Lover" and had me singing on the ride home from school like I knew what the heck they were talking about. But normally he showed us the sunny side of the subject. Promise Me, you'll keep your faith in love, that you'll treasure this gift from the Creator, he seemed to ask us. So, If This World Were Mine, I'd want to thank Luther for all the wonderful songs he left us, all the moving stories he told. It seems as the years passed, the struggles he faced never obscured his purpose to teach us that Once You Know How, you just never forget how to love. If I had the chance, I would say, "You are so missed. You spiced up so many lives, started so many parties--and, ahem families *smile*. Don't You Know? We love you. But then again, I bet a million dollars that you know.

Rest in Peace Luther Vandross.


At July 03, 2005 11:20 PM , Blogger Will said...

Awwww, Dot. That was very well done. I applaud your tribute...and also applaud Mr. Vandross for a lifetime (mine anyway) of some of the greatest soul music the Earth will ever know. He's done what so many of us hope to do when we're taken from this place...left a legacy built on grace, passion...and love.

R.I.P., Luther Vandross, Black Man...Maestro.

At July 04, 2005 11:59 AM , Anonymous SweetB... said...

Very nice tribute...I could'nt muster 1/2 this stuff, I just keepin think, NOT MY LUTHA, NOT LUTHA LORD!!! NOT LUFA!
Well done! I'm glad he got some fans who aren't at a loss for words, like me..

At July 07, 2005 5:29 PM , Blogger Berry said...

I miss his spirit already.

At July 08, 2005 3:54 PM , Blogger SepiaDreams said...

Wonderful tribute. You have put into words what millions of people are feeling.

At July 08, 2005 7:52 PM , Blogger Zantiferous3 said...

*sigh* I was just saying, the day before he died that he has churned out consistently beautiful and entertainig music for 3 decades. I can remember being 8 or 9, looking in my mother's room for change to take to the ice cream truck while some random "Change" song was playing on the radio. Luther has just always been a part of my life. So sad that he is no longer with us... but the legacy of music he has left behind for almost 2 generations... will never, ever be forgotten, or duplicated. RIP Luther...

Beautiful tribute Soror. =)

At July 10, 2005 10:45 AM , Blogger Brother OMi said...

i feel you
he was so private
i wonder why...when everyone else has their biz out there whether they wanted to or not
whats ill is that i know folks who have worked with everyone from James Brown to Bob Marley to Black Star and NONE have ever worked with Luther.

i got to check in on that

At July 15, 2005 10:01 AM , Blogger *Madosi said...

Luther will truly be missed.

I had the chance to read a book that was written on him last year by a fellow journalist and the year before had the chance to meet him when I worked for a small Black newspaper here in Atlanta.

He was so cool, down to earth, genuine and giving. The music he blessed this world with is therapeutic and his memory will live on forever.

Now what will happen to music?


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home