Two Soul Music Legends Lost: Vandross and Benson

NPR's Ed Gordon pays tribute to two of soul music's true legends. Singer Luther Vandross died Friday at the age of 54, and Renaldo "Obie" Benson also died Friday in Detroit at age 69. Benson was a member of Motown's legendary singing group The Four Tops.

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ED GORDON, host:

And now, we pay tribute to two of soul music's true legends.

Singer Luther Vandross died Friday at the age of 54. During Vandross' career, he sold more than 25 million albums and became one of the top R&B singers of his era. He earned four Grammys with records that dominated R&B and pop charts during the 1980s and '90s. Two years ago, Vandross suffered a stroke in New York. His last album, the sentimental "Dance with My Father," earned Vandross four more Grammys, including best male R&B performance for the title track.

(Soundbite of "Dance with My Father")

Mr. LUTHER VANDROSS: (Singing) I'd play song that would never, ever end. How I'd love, love, love, to dance with my father again.

GORDON: For years, Vandross struggled with weight problems, diabetes and hypertension. Although officials gave no cause of death, he never quite recovered from his stroke. We'll offer a full tribute to Luther Vandross on Friday.

(Soundbite of "Baby I Need Your Lovin'")

GORDON: Renaldo "Obie" Benson also died Friday, in Detroit. He was a member of Motown's legendary singing group, The Four Tops. Benson died from lung cancer at the age of 69. After joining Motown Records in the 1960s, The Four Tops sold more than 50 million records. They recorded major hits including "I Can't Help Myself," "Baby I Need Your Lovin'" and "Reach Out I'll Be There." Benson also co-wrote a number of songs on Marvin Gaye's classic album, "What's Going On." With Benson's death, only two of the original Four Tops remain, Levi Stubbs and Abdul "Duke" Fakir.

(Soundbite of "I Can't Help Myself")

GORDON: You're listening to NEWS & NOTES from NPR News.

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