Stars, Fans Say Goodbye to Luther Vandross

Stars, Fans Say Goodbye to Luther Vandross
Patti LaBelle
J Records; Jennifer Szymaszek/AP

updated 07/07/2005 at 08:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/07/2005 08:00AM

Patti LaBelle, Roberta Flack, Teddy Pendergrast and friends, family and fans of the late Luther Vandross paid their respects to the R&B legend as they filed past his coffin Wednesday on Manhattan's Upper East Side.

Lines wound around the block outside, while inside the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel, a video monitor showed Vandross and featured his distinctive singing voice - causing some mourners to break into tears.

"Let it out, ladies," LaBelle told some fans with moist eyes, reports New York's Daily News. "Let it out."

Oprah Winfrey and friend Gayle King also attended the wake, according to the New York Post. The tribute was scheduled to continue Thursday, with Vandross's funeral set for noon Friday. Public viewings at Campbell's are from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on both days.

Vandross, whose hits such as "Here and Now" and "Any Love" sold more than 25 million albums, died Friday at the John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Edison, N.J. He was 54 and had been ailing ever since April 16, 2003, when a stroke he suffered in his Manhattan home left him in a coma for nearly five months.

By September 2003, LaBelle visited Vandross in the hospital and told PEOPLE that his mind was so sharp that when they sang a duet, he corrected her on a lyric. "His voice is the same as it was," LaBelle said optimistically. "He's back."

But, in fact, he wasn't, despite similar cheer-up visits from Aretha Franklin and Dionne Warwick. Although no cause of death was announced, the hospital said Vandross "never really recovered" from the stroke.

Last year, Vandross's peers in the recording industry voted him a Grammy for the bittersweet "Dance with My Father." (He did not attend the ceremony, owing to his health.) In all, he had won eight Grammys.

His mother, Mary Ida Vandross, nine nieces, as well as eight great nephews and three great nieces survive Vandross.

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