#53: Luther Vandross ‘Superstar’

luther_vandross_busy_body.jpgToday's Top 100 entry should come with a disclaimer directed at anyone unfortunate enough to have their songs remade, reinterpreted or even referenced by the late, great Luther Vandross: To all of you, I'm sorry, but Luther owns your material. That's just the way it is. One such victim of Vandross circumstance is the musical group The Carpenters, who released their version of the song "Superstar" in September 1971 and enjoyed gold status. Their release came after the originators of the song, Delaney and Bonnie, released it as a B-side track in 1969 as a ditty detailing the longing desires of a rock superstar's groupie, who yearns for a reconnection after a brief sexual tryst. Presented from a female perspective, it became an anthem of sorts for women who were "bedded" and then "deaded" by rockers who swept through town. Yup, that's what was hot back in the early '70s.

All of that became irrelevant once Luther got his hands on it, however, with the song being delivered from a male perspective for the first time. It became a staple at his live shows, not to mention a crowd favorite. His vocal stylings changed the song's dynamics, transforming it from a stunted tale about groupie love into a ballad of universal longing. In fact, once it was released as a single from his 1983 Busy Body album, it became a huge R&B hit, reaching #5 on the Billboard Top R&B Singles chart. Sure, there are other versions, with American Idol winner Ruben Studdard coming the closest to the Vandross level, but as the disclaimer states, Luther owns it. Now go click play on the video for a live, master class. Enjoy.

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14 Responses

  1. That felt so good...don't nobody do it like Luther and I suspect it will be a long time before we see anybody come close...

  2. I love this song... and I love the video even more.

  3. Ahhh...was wondering when another one of my joints was going to show up.
    Give me tingles from the first note. I. LOVE. THIS. SONG. It's not often on the list of folx faves from him but it's certainly on mine. It's still really hard to watch his performances without tearing up. I miss him so much.
    Nice writeup for my joint Harlem!.You're right, Luther is the KING of remakes.

  4. Hey don't forget about Aretha - Respect, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Natural Woman. She and Luther are hands down the two best song reconstructionists and make them their own so well that you cannot remember the originals.
    OT - Is D Train on the list?

  5. L'il Stylus used to practice his croon to this joint as a youngster, when he wasn't trying to emulate Phillip Bailey.
    Favorite Luther song ever.
    I can relate to the misty oculars. I don't think I ever accepted that he's gone.

  6. Some singers can make you freeze with enjoyment and forget to breathe.
    We should have had more from/of him.

  7. Much like Aretha, Luther is one of the great interpreters of song. The premier balladeer, Luther was a perfectionist and it was evident in his music and stage presence. No one compares.

  8. Yep... Luther owns it!
    This was great for me before work, today. Just got me some feel good energy. Thanks!

  9. Wow, thanks for the history of this song. I thought it was originally done by The Carpenters. As for Luther, love him!

  10. As much as I love Luther's version.......I love the Carpenters more. Yes I went there.

  11. Luther is one of the many few that does remakes to perfection.Like Luther s***** on your track!But I still love originals.But this is one of the best.Luther cannot be touched.

  12. I can think of one song he did that he didn't own. Always and Forever is still a Heatwave song. His version is very good, but it is still a Heatwave song.

  13. I always ranked Luther second behind Al Green but...God forgive me....Luther has claimed the all time greatest spot. There will never be another luther.

  14. I always ranked Luther second behind Al Green but...God forgive me....Luther has claimed the all time greatest spot. There will never be another luther.