Vandross Still Hospitalized As Album Nears
The album Luther Vandross considers the best of his career hits stores Tuesday (June 10) -- with no videos, television interviews or concerts to trumpet its arrival. With the 52-year-old singer yet toThe album Luther Vandross considers the best of his career hits stores Tuesday (June 10) -- with no videos, television interviews or concerts to trumpet its arrival. With the 52-year-old singer yet to regain full consciousness after an April 16 stroke, there is virtually none of the normal promotional hoopla surrounding J Records' release of "Dance With My Father."
Which raises an uncomfortable question -- how do you promote the work of an incapacitated artist?
Record companies don't have such problems when the artist is dead. Last year, an Aaliyah disc released after her plane crashed sold more than a million copies. Selena's English-language debut, released after she was slain by her former fan club president, debuted at No. 1 on The Billboard 200. And the estate of rapper Tupac Shakur puts out albums so often, some doubt that he's really dead.
But it is rare -- perhaps unprecedented -- for an album to be released when an artist is still alive, yet very ill. J Records has no plans to make videos without Vandross. "We're just in effect releasing the music; the rest will take care of itself," said label founder Clive Davis. "I think the music will tell its own story."
Davis could have delayed the disc's release, but he said that was never an option. "I think [Vandross] was very much at a creative peak. He felt that it was the best album he had ever recorded," he said. "Everyone knows that he wanted his music to be out."
Some of "Dance With My Father" marks a departure for Vandross, whose elegant, seductive ballads cater to an older audience. Rappers Busta Rhymes and Foxy Brown appear on the new disc, as does Destiny's Child's Beyonce Knowles.
Davis, who engineered Carlos Santana's Grammy-winning comeback "Supernatural" by pairing the veteran guitarist with younger artists, says there was no such agenda for "Dance With My Father" other than Vandross' plan to make the album "contemporary."
"He really had worked on his own on the album, and indeed had arranged for all the duets on his own," said Davis. "He was the one that reached out for each of the duet partners."
Vandross has been hospitalized at Weill-Cornell Medical Center since his stroke. He contracted pneumonia and needed a tracheotomy to help him breathe. It remains unclear whether he has suffered any long-term paralysis or nerve damage.
However, Vandross recognizes family and friends, has recently begun mouthing words, and has started mild physical therapy, according to family and friends. "Luther is going to be just fine," his mother, Mary Vandross, said this week. "This is God's way of saying, 'You're tired.'"
Tuesday will also see the release of "The Essential Luther Vandross" (Sony/Legacy), featuring hits like "Here and Now" and "A House Is Not a Home."
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