Who Was Luther Vandross? Google Doodle Celebrates Singer's 70th Birthday

Luther Vandross, the multi-platinum, Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, and producer, is celebrated in Tuesday's Google Doodle on what would have been his 70th birthday.

The animated Google Doodle video features Vandross' song "Never Too Much" as well as scenes of the singer performing on stage and recording in the studio. The video also depicts key moments in his life, from the theater where he got his start to singing the national anthem at the Super Bowl.

Luther Ronzoni Vandross was born on this day in 1951 in New York City, where he grew up inspired by soul singers such as Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin, and Dionne Warwick. He developed an interest in singing at the age of five and would use the coin-operated recording booths that could be found in New York City stores, according to the Google Doodle biography.

At the age of 13, a Dionne Warwick performance blew him away and he knew that he was destined to be a musician. After high school, Vandross performed his songs at Amateur Night at Harlem's Apollo Theater, and although he never won first place, he joined the theater's performing arts group. This group, Listen My Brother Revue, sang on the 1969 pilot episode of Sesame Street, giving Vandross widespread exposure.

Vandross had another big break a few years later when his original composition "Everybody Rejoice" was featured in the 1974 Broadway musical The Wiz, which was later adapted into an Academy-award-winning movie.

Nicknamed the "velvet voice" singer, he went on to collaborate with artists such as David Bowie, Ringo Starr, Whitney Houston, and Ben E. King, and performed commercial jingles for major brands including Juicy Fruit.

In 1981, Luther Vandross launched his solo career and had full creative control over his debut album, Never Too Much—this was the first of Vandross' 14 studio albums that went either platinum or multi-platinum. The singer went on to tour the world and in 1989, he became the first male artist to sell out 10 consecutive shows at London's Wembley Arena.

By the end of his music career, Vandross had won eight Grammy Awards (out of 33 nominations) and was awarded his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He performed at the 1997 Super Bowl, and had eight Billboard Top 10 albums. Luther Vandross died in 2005 at the age of 54.

Luther Vandross' family collaborated on the Google Doodle project and said: "It is a true reflection of Luther Vandross's musical legacy around the world to be honored by Google with an animated video Doodle that fittingly captures the joy Luther has brought the world.

"Luther made each of his songs about one simple, universal subject—love; an emotion and feeling common to the human experience no matter who you are, where you're from or what you look like.

"No one else has expressed this emotion, in song, at the level Luther did for over 35 years. To have Google broadcast that around the world is a wonderful showcase of his immeasurable talent."

Google Doodle added: "Happy birthday, Luther Vandross! The joy your music brings to the world is never too much."

Luther Vandross
Luther Vandross performing on the Oprah Winfrey Show, in Chicago, Illinois, June 24, 1991. Vandross is celebrated in Tuesday's Google Doodle on what would have been his 70th birthday. Paul Natkin/Getty