American Idol Winner Ruben Studdard to Bring Luther Vandross Tribute to Cincinnati This Fall

Studdard will perform the R&B legend’s songs at Memorial Hall on Nov. 14

click to enlarge Ruben Studdard - Provided
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Ruben Studdard

Singer Ruben Studdard, whose career took off after he won the second season of American Idol in 2003, has of late been performing concerts that pay tribute to the late R&B legend Luther Vandross.

This fall, Cincinnati fans of both vocalists will have a chance to experience the “Ruben Sings Luther” show. Studdard is scheduled to appear at Over-the-Rhine’s Memorial Hall on Nov. 14. Tickets ($45-$65) are available now.

Studdard’s ties to Vandross stretch back to the very start of his singing career. He performed a head-turning version of “Superstar” for his first-round song on Idol, which set the stage for his ultimate overall win. “Superstar” was originally released in 1969 by the duo Delaney & Bonnie (it was co-written with Leon Russell), but it was a bigger hit for The Carpenters in 1971 and then for Vandross in 1983. Studdard’s recorded version — a single from his debut album, Soulful — was nominated for a Best Male R&B Vocal Performance Grammy; the 2004 award ultimately went to Vandross himself, for his work on the song “Dance with My Father.”

Last spring, Studdard — who earned the nickname the Velvet Teddy Bear on Idol — released his Ruben Sings Luther album, which features his arrangements of Vandross hits like “Always and Forever,” “Power of Love” and “Never Too Much.”

“Since I won American Idol, people have been asking for me to sing Luther songs for a long time,” Studdard told People magazine. “I thought, ‘OK. You want to hear it? I might as well do it.’ I thought it was the perfect time to pay homage to one of the greatest song interpreters of all time.”

His performance of the songs post-release earned him a glowing concert review from Variety, which said Studdard “appropriated much of the late tenor’s nuances without mimicking too much of Vandross’ athleticism.”