Black History Month: 'The Night I Fell in Love'

Photos by Jennie McKeon

I remember the night I fell in love with Luther Vandross.

Well, his music anyway. The R&B singer-songwriter swept me off my feet with “Never Too Much” — so much so that I put it on the first mix CD I made for my boyfriend.

Funky beats, catchy phrases, smooth voice — I knew it right then. This guy has what I like.

It’s an honor to conclude my Black History Month vinyl series with Vandross. His 1985 record “The Night I Fell in Love” is full of eight perfectly ‘80s, perfectly smooth, perfectly perfect love songs. Rolling Stone Magazine included it on its 100 best albums of the 1980s.

It kicks off with my favorite and most flashy song, “Til My Baby Comes Home.” It’s something you can dance to.

No matter where my baby is

she never leaves me without love

She gives it up till I get enough

then I’m alright

‘Til my baby comes home

— “Til My Baby Comes Home”

The title track begins with a fast-paced rhythm, fooling you into thinking the album is headed in a pop-rock direction. But, it takes a turn toward the romantic with a ballad featuring Vandross’ full, slow-paced vocals (also known as “The Velvet Voice”). This has the makings of an iconic love song. I can’t help but coo every elongated “you” in the chorus.

The night I fell in love with yooouuu.

When people think of classic love songs, The Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody," Etta James’ “At Last” or an Elvis Presley track first comes to mind. I think of Vandross.

“If Only for One Night/Creepin” is the slowest track, and my least favorite. While Vandross’ voice sounds lovely in “If Only for One Night,” it gets lost in the music. I prefer when the music complements his vocals, rather than overshadowing them. Come back, Luther!

The cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Creepin’” is easily the stronger part of this track, with its jazz-inspired music and more dominant singing. It’s the ideal background music for your next stakeout.

Vandross wrote or co-wrote six of the eight songs, which explains its pleasant consistency. Not many other cooks were in the kitchen. His experience co-writing and singing back-up for other musicians paid off.

It’s obvious Vandross has a deep connection with music. He seemed to find his sweet spot singing about love.

Frankly, the ability to fit the phrase “My Sensitivity (Gets in the Way)” in the second to last track is a songwriting gift.

The chorus of “Wait for Love” is perfectly timed — catchy, but not forced. This is another classic track that DJs can dedicate to all the lovers in the audience.

This album cover is interesting, because Vandross’ face doesn’t exactly flaunt the notion he’s thinking of love. But, he does look sharp in that suit.

Her outfit: Dress - Vintage Clutch - Vintage Heels - Steve Madden

His outfit: Jacket - H&M Shirt - Abercrombie & Fitch Pants - Old Navy Shoes - Crevo Footwear