Google is honoring soul singer Luther Vandross, on what would be his 70th birthday, with a video Google Doodle.

Life of Luther Vandross

Luther Ronzoni Vandross, Jr. was born on April 20, 1951, in Manhattan, as the fourth child in his family. Inspired by musical greats like Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin, and Patti LaBelle, Vandross found himself learning how to play piano by ear at a young age, along with a talent for singing.

The first big break for Luther Vandross was with a theater group, Listen My Brother, which made several appearances on the first season of Sesame Street. Throughout the 1970s, Vandross contributed to numerous songs for greats like Ben E. King, David Bowie, and Ringo Starr, while also achieving acclaim for writing the song “Everybody Rejoice,” part of the Broadway musical The Wiz.

In 1981, Luther Vandross began a successful solo career, releasing the album Never Too Much, the title song for which forms the basis of today’s Google Doodle. Between 1981 and 2004, Vandross released a total of 13 studio albums, won 8 Grammy awards, and earned the nickname “Velvet Voice” for the richness of his tenor vocals.

One of Vandross’s most well-known songs is “Dance with My Father,” dedicated to Luther Vandross, Sr., who died from diabetes complications when young Luther was just eight years old. The song was the lead track on an album of the same name, released in 2003, just weeks after Vandross suffered a stroke that left him comatose for two months.

Luther’s health briefly recovered, in time for him to be recognized at the 2004 Grammy Awards for Song of the Year, though it was his mother, Mary Vandross, who accepted the award on his behalf. Luther Vandross, Jr. died of a heart attack on July 1, 2005, at the age of 54. Luther’s legacy lives on, with his music frequently being sampled, covered, or remixed to this day.

Luther Vandross Google Doodle

The video Google Doodle celebrating the life and legacy of Luther Vandross was created by Sam Bass and features many of the highlights of Vandross’s career, like performing at the Apollo Theater, appearing on Sesame Street, and writing jingles for numerous commercials. With these, you’ll also see representations of the many different kinds of love that Vandross sang about.

Over on the Doodle blog, Google has shared early drafts of the animation, as well as an interview with the Doodle artist who shared the joy that he found in Luther Vandross’s music and life.

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!

— Sam Bass

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