The magnificent soul singer Luther Vandross died yesterday at age 54.He had suffered a stroke in April 2003 from which he never quite recovered.What will come out in the next few days will be the story of how his manager, Carmen Romano, fought to keep Luther on track with his medical care. "They did not keep appointments he was supposed to have," a source said."It was a constant struggle to get Luther the attention he needed." Vandross, I am told, was having physical therapy at the time of his death.Though he still drifts in and out of lucidity, Vandross was on his game enough recently when Labelle visited to correct her when she flubbed the lyrics to a song they were singing together."Not only did he correct her on the lyrics, but he corrects people on what notes they're singing," said Szadek, who is also working on getting a keyboard for Vandross so that he can play along while he sings.
A story in a recent issue of Entertainment Weekly quotes Vandross' mother as saying that her son — who has publicly struggled with his weight and had gained quite a bit before the stroke — ignored signs that he was pushing himself too hard, including a nagging headache that lasted nearly a week before his stroke.
"He's been able to sing and it sounds great," Szadek said.
"He is sharing his gift with friends and family." In addition to singing along to instrumental tracks of his favorite songs, such as "So Amazing" and "Here and Now," Vandross has been harmonizing with friends Patti La Belle and Aretha Franklin, who've both come to visit and duet with the singer in his room.
"He still needs his team of health-care providers," Szadek said.
"He's getting a lot of therapy and they meet weekly to discuss how much longer he needs to stay here." The most encouraging sign is the slow return of Vandross' singing voice.