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So Amazing

Why Luther Vandross's Legacy Matters

Sophisticated r&b will march on despite the loss of its greatest romanticist, at least insofar as we financially support struggling torchbearers like Ledisi, Kem, Rahsaan Patterson, and Lalah Hathaway. But there are other challenges to face. In the world Vandross left behind, 49 percent of metropolitan black men who have sex with other men are HIV positive, according to a recent study. Not only on this continent but around the globe, we who are darker than blue--not just men, but women and children too--need to be exposed to new ways and stylistic approaches to what it means to be a man. What the hip-hop generation can learn from Luther-- besides the importance of musicianship and the pursuit of artistic excellence--is that genuine respectfulness toward women, the embrace of all things feminine, and the naked expression of romantic vulnerability are not, and have never been, signs of weakness. They are badges of courage. When Luther titled one of his most personal tunes "My Sensitivity Gets in the Way," he was naturally being tongue-in-cheek. As Sethe might have said in Beloved: Luther, sensitivity was your best thing. His records are all the evidence we need that he must have been one hell of a lover.

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