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.”