Hundreds of fans waited in long lines in the rain Friday to say a final farewell to R&B legend Luther Vandross.
A public funeral was held this afternoon for Vandross at Riverside Church in Manhattan. The 54-year-old Grammy winner died last week at a New Jersey hospital. Doctors say he never full recovered from a stroke two years ago.
The lineup of friends who performed at the service read like a Grammy show, with Patti Labelle, Cissy Houston, Stevie Wonder and Dionne Warwick all participating in the service.
“I pray that you will inspire all of us to write and to sing songs, and to give the emotion and spirit to the true, committed people of God,” said Wonder.
“We should be happy for Luther. He made a difference in this life and now has the wonderful opportunity to dance with his father again,” said Warwick.
“Luther, nobody told you that the road would be easy,” sang Labelle.
Despite the rain, hundreds of fans waited in long lines outside the church to pay their respects to the legendary singer. Only some were able to get in to the service because of the overflow.
"We knew that the lines would be very long and we are a diehard Luther fan," said one fan waiting on line. "He's done a lot for our community. He taught us all how to love and we just love him. Our condolences to the family, and we just wouldn't miss this for the world. This will be his last and final standing ovation, and we had to be here."
"There have been a lot of great lovers in history, a lot of balladeers. Luther Vandross is the icon of our times, and I'm proud to be here among those who basically want to share there thoughts of love for him and with him," said another fan.
Vandross’s burial will be open to friends and family only.
Over his career spanning more than two decades, Vandross racked up dozens of awards and sold millions of albums.
Despite his musical success, he battled troublesome weight problem. He would lose 100 pounds at a time, only to put it back on.
What never changed was his silky voice and ability to sing a love song like few can. In a 2001 interview with NY1, he said it was difficult being considered an ambassador of love.
“The romance/balladeer part is something that happened over the years. That’s not anything I aimed for,” said the singer. “That’s not by design — that was just something how everything gravitated to that. I always was into the singing part of it, the vocal part of it, and when asked how I wanted to be remembered, I would always say, ÎAs one of the premiere singers of our day.’”
Luther's family, friends and fans say he will indeed be remembered as one of the world’s premiere singers.
R&B Legend Luther Vandross Dead At Age 54