LUTHER WAS COMFORTED TO THE END BY OPRAH

Published on: July 7, 2005
LUTHER WAS COMFORTED TO THE END BY OPRAH

By PATRICIA SHIPP

R&B great Luther Vandross was cared for during his last days by Oprah Winfrey and singer Patti LaBelle, The National Enquirer can reveal.

Sources said the two women were often at the side of the velvet-voiced star throughout his two-year struggle to overcome the debilitating stroke he suffered in April of 2003.

They were devastated when the Grammy-winner died at age 54 on July 1 at the John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Edison, N.J.

"Oprah and Patti were Luther's greatest supporters and they helped him when he was at his lowest points," a friend of the singer said.

The lifelong bachelor stopped making public appearances after the stroke when he needed a tracheotomy to breathe while he battled meningitis and pneumonia.

Amazingly, he managed to continue his career. In 2004, he captured four Grammys, including best song for the bittersweet "Dance With My Father".

Friends believe that Vandross' yo-yoing weight — which at one point ballooned to more than 300 lbs — may have played a part in his myriad health problems. After the stroke, he was forced to spend several weeks in a hospital before he transferred to a rehabilitation facility.

Born in New York on April 20, 1951, Vandross grew up listening to the music of Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross and Dionne Warwick. By the mid-1970s, he had joined their ranks and was one of the industry's most popular session singers and vocal arrangers.

He won his first Grammy in 1990 for the single "Here And Now" and is also known for hits such as "Never Too Much", "Stop to Love" and "Give Me The Reason."

He shed his bulky frame thanks to a new health and fitness routine. But he admitted his excess weight had led to diabetes and hypertension. While doctors did not release the cause of Vandross' death, they said he had never "really recovered from" the stroke.

—Additional reporting by Patricia Towle and Michael Glynn