In the world of contemporary music, there are just a handful of superstars whose first name alone brings instant recognition. But when it comes to male vocalists, one name towers above the rest in any discussion of black male singers whose impact and influence has been unparalleled – Luther Vandross. He was, and always will be, one of the most distinguished black male vocalists of our time.
In the years since Luther’s passing in 2005, one constant has remained to define his life and his musical success: the voice. Like any great singer of the past 100 years, Luther Vandross’ voice and distinct singing style led not only to monumental success, but also to instant recognition when you hear him singing–through your stereo, car radio, on TV or in movie hit songs like “Never Too Much,” “Here and Now,” “Any Love,” “Power of Love/Love Power,” “I Can Make It Better” and “For You to Love”.
There will never be another Luther, but no other voice comes closer to his than that of Ruben Studdard –the remarkable singer who was hailed as the “next Luther” during his “American Idol” run, and was nominated for a Grammy Award, singing a Luther song, “Superstar.”
On Thursday, May 3 at 8 pm at The Ridgefield Playhouse, Ruben Studdard: An Evening of Luther Vandross, Always & Forever takes the stage as part of the Pepsi Rock Series powered by Xfinity.
“My goal was to not only to pay tribute to Luther but to add my own passion on top of Luther’s brilliant songs,” states Studdard. “My mother was one his biggest fans. I was like every other kid; I listened to what my mom listened to. I grew up a fan and became one as I got more serious with my music, and was able to appreciate his work more.”
Studdard, the Grammy Award-nominated R&B, gospel and pop singer and winner of the second season of “American Idol,” shared that although his family has always supported him, his mom has always been a huge influence and was his first manager.
“When I was younger and had all the other things I was involved in, sports and school and all, she took time to make sure when someone asked me to sing in the community, that I rehearsed, that I was there on time,” he said.
When asked what life has been like after American Idol, Studdard says he is the same person.
“I really haven’t changed. I didn’t change my circle of friends. I have matured. I have grown into the role of balladeer for everyone. It’s something I struggled with when I was younger and now, it feels right.”
He has also recorded six studio albums, appeared frequently on TV, toured extensively and sold more than two million albums worldwide.
And although he is the same as person, the new comfortable-in-his–own-skin balladeer Ruben Studdard, the artist, says this new album is a celebration of that.
“We are not only recreating some of the production elements, musicians, background singers, wardrobe and lighting that were ever present when Luther took the stage, but my heart and soul will be in every note I sing as I honor one of the greatest vocalists we’ve ever had,” he said, adding, “One of my favorite songs to perform on this album is a “House Is Not A Home,” but that changes with the energy in the room and the crowd.”
If you want to be a part of that energy and hear the balladeer himself and reminisce about Luther Vandross, get your tickets ($67) for Ruben Studdard: An Evening of Luther Vandross, Always & Forever, by calling or visiting the box office, 203-438-5795 or going online at ridgefieldplayhouse.org.
The Ridgefield Playhouse is a non-profit performing arts center located at 80 East Ridge, parallel to Main Street, Ridgefield, CT.