The estate of legendary R&B singer Luther Vandross has struck a wide-ranging partnership with Primary Wave Music that sees the company acquiring a stake in the late artist’s publishing, master recording income stream, and name and likeness rights. The company will continue a long-term partnership with the estate to manage all assets.
Sources tell Variety the deal is in the $40 million range.
Like so many other classic soul singers, Vandross launched his career playing “Amateur Night” at the legendary Apollo Theatre in Harlem while he was in high school. He began working as a background singer and wrote the song “Everybody Rejoice/Brand New Day” for the Broadway musical “The Wiz.” In 1974, accompanied his friends and occasional collaborators Carlos Alomar and Robin Clark to Philadelphia, where they were working with David Bowie on the album that would become the smash “Young Americans” — Vandross was just along for the ride, but he and Clark began riffing on one of the songs, Bowie loved it, and Vandross ended up singing on nearly the entire album, co-writing the song “Fascination,” and accompanying Bowie on a national tour that fall.
He continued his work as a session singer, recording with Bette Midler, Roberta Flack, Diana Ross, Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder, Judy Collins and others and released his first solo album, “Never Too Much,” in 1981. The album propelled him to stardom, and he not only continued a multiplatinum solo career but also produced records for Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross and Dionne Warwick.
Over the course of a three-plus-decade career, Vandross sold over 40 million records worldwide, scored 11 consecutive platinum albums, won eight Grammy Awards from a whopping 33 nominations, along with three NAACP Awards. In 2014, he was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Vandross died of a heart attack at the age of 54 in July of 2005, after suffering a stroke two years earlier.
Songs included in the deal are some of Vandross’ biggest hits, such as the title track of his Grammy-nominated debut, “Never Too Much,” “Here and Now,” his cover of “Endless Love” featuring Mariah Carey, as well as the four-time Grammy-winning “Dance With My Father,” which Vandross considered his career song.
“We are delighted to join forces with Larry and Primary Wave. The LV Estate’s goal is to see Luther’s legacy continue to flourish and believe the partnership with Primary Wave is a clear step in that direction” said Carmen J. Romano, of FBBM Entertainment Business Management.
“Luther Vandross was a soulful American icon who was the voice of a generation,” says Larry Mestel, CEO & Founder, Primary Wave Music. “We look forward to working with Carmen and the estate to help expand Luther’s influence.”