Crooner Luther Vandross will forever be known for his powerful yet silky vocals and heart-touching melodies. In the new documentary Luther: Never Too Much premiering at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival, director Dawn Porter makes clear her goal is to celebrate the late singer’s talent.
The award-winning filmmaker received blessings from Sony and the Vandross family to move forward with the project and revealed, “The family is sensitive about some things, and I had a lot of respect for that, but they also had a lot of respect for me as a filmmaker and knew that all the aspects of his story should be told, so everybody’s happy.” Two well-known sensitive topics regarding Vandross are his weight and sexuality.
In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Porter shared, “I really wanted him to be able to tell you his story as much as possible, so how do you do that with someone who’s not with us? A lot of that was thinking about the lyrics. [On] “Any Love,” he was just endlessly frustrated with the absence of a romantic partner in his life. So, through his lyrics, I think you get to know a little bit more about him.”
She added, “Having the opportunity to tell the story about one of our greatest vocalists ever and give him the recognition that he should’ve had in life is surreal. It’s so much more than a music doc, and that means everything to me.”
The two-time Sundance alumna distilled 80 hours of performance clips, 150 hours of archival footage, and over 2,200 exclusive images. Porter notes that Vandross “didn’t have a perfect life by any means, so we addressed all of that. But I think for all of us, your struggles and how you respond to those struggles, that’s the story.” The documentary touches on the Bronx native’s food addiction, struggles with weight, loneliness, and post-traumatic stress resulting from a 1986 auto accident that left one person dead and much more.
Co-founder of Raindog Films, Ged Doherty, along with actor Colin Firth and Trish D. Chetty had been working on creating a Vandross project since 2015. Actor Jamie Foxx and his producing partner, Datari Turner also came on board as executive producers.
The “A House Is Not a Home” singer made his national debut on Sesame Street in 1969. An R&B heavyweight, Vandross was the go-to guy for background vocals for legends like David Bowie, Roberta Flack, Bette Midler, Barbara Streisand, and Carly Simon. Those music sessions led to commercial jingles which funded Vandross’s double platinum major label debut album Never Too Much in 1981.
Challenged by diabetes and hypertension for years, Luther Vandross suffered a stroke in 2003 and was in a coma for nearly two months. He passed away at the age of 54 in 2005. Vandross’ father died of diabetes when he was eight years old and his three older siblings also predeceased him due to diabetes and asthma, leaving his mother to outlive all of her children.
Photo: Luther Vandross, 1985 (public domain)