PA: Oh, no, I mean, they were honored as individuals. There was no such thing as being a background artist working with Luther.
PA: If you were one of the so-called backup singers, you were dressed like any superstar would’ve been dressed and you were highlighted at some point in the show and everyone got to see whatever your talent was, you know. He was also very, very fair in that way with everybody because he didn’t forget where he came from.
Smitty: That’s right, absolutely. And what a great tribute. This is wonderful. And I remember talking with Gerald Albright years ago. I had just left a Luther Vandross show.
Smitty: And I called Gerald and said “Hey, man, I just left Luther’s show and it was just incredible” and his response was “It’s a great production, isn’t it?” He said “He gives you your money’s worth, doesn’t he?”
PA: Well, Luther was all about production. When we first met and nobody knew who he was and he was doing studio work and doing vocal arrangements and doing backups for other people’s records, making other people sound fantastic…
PA: And we’d always talk about him wanting to go off into the solo world and he would do little club dates in New York just to hone his craft and he’d say to me “Patti, I can’t wait til I go out. When I go out it’s just gonna be a killer. I’m gonna have dancers and singers and lights and there’s gonna be big production and I wanna give people a show. I wanna just really entertain them.” And at that time I was doing a lot of jingle work and he said “I wanna do those jingles that you do ‘cause I hear the money’s just crazy.” I said “Well, the money is crazy and I will get you in the door and I’m sure you will keep yourself there” and I got him in the door and he got himself a little dinky apartment in Manhattan, little studio or one bedroom I think it was, and he did it up as only Luther could ‘cause he had magnificent taste, then he pulled the place together, and after he did that he didn’t spend another dime and he saved every single penny he had from residuals from his jingles. And within about a year and a half, the next time I heard him he was going on tour with three semis and two buses.
PA: And about, I don’t know, I guess he had at least 7,500 people working.
Smitty: Wow, well, that’s a man living his dream, you know?
PA: Yeah, but there was luck but there was mostly hard work and just a plan. He planned his work and he worked his plan.
Smitty: Yes, and aren’t we happy for that?
PA: We sure are. (Laughs.)
Smitty: Yes indeed. Now, this album also is closely connected with the Luther Vandross Foundation….
Smitty: .…the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association. Talk to me a little bit about their collaboration with this project that you know of.
PA: Well, I got involved with the American Heart Association a couple of years ago doing some benefits for them and connected them with Rendezvous Entertainment, with the head of the record company, Hyman Katz, and they put it off and decided that there was an obvious connection between what they were trying to accomplish, particularly in the black community and what was going on with Luther, and so when this project came to pass, it was decided that this would be a very good thing for them to collaborate on.
PA: And that’s how that went down, and it’s very appropriate, unfortunately appropriate, because it’s what took Luther away from us. But hopefully his passing will not be in vain because it’ll get a lot of people on the case and conscious of their diet and what they eat and how much activity they do every day and think about Luther and not end up the same way he did.
Smitty: Yes, and that would be a very meaningful thing.
Smitty: Yes, and this campaign is called Power to End Stroke.
Smitty: And what a beautiful campaign, and I’m so happy that Rendezvous included in this project some warning signs about stroke. There are some very educational elements to this album….
Smitty: .…which is very cool.
PA: Yeah, well, a lot of people don’t make the correlation for some reason between obesity and diabetes and strokes, and therefore many, many, many people walk around with diabetes and don’t realize they have it, and they don’t know what to look for, they think they’ve got gas or, you know, they think they’re slowing down or they’re tired or, you know, a million other things that could be happening that are in fact associated with strokes, so they’re things you want to enlighten people about.
Smitty: Yes, and I think it’s a great effort along with some magnificent music, and because of the great efforts of everyone involved, yourself included. I noticed that the mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa….
Smitty: He recognized Rendezvous Entertainment and all the entertainers for their great efforts to raise awareness about stroke and heart disease. I think that’s a beautiful thing to be recognized by the mayor and the City of Los Angeles. What a great tribute.
PA: Exactly. Yeah, well, he’s a very cool guy, I must say. We love him over here in L.A.
Smitty: That’s a beautiful thing. And I’d like to just recognize everyone over there: Hyman Katz and Frank Cody and Dave Koz and everyone there at Rendezvous Entertainment for their efforts to really do a quality project of music along with this very valuable information about stroke.
PA: Great, right.
Smitty: And I think that the words are very true at the top of this paragraph of the educational portion of the album in the liner notes, where it says that “KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!” How true that is because knowledge is power when it is accessible and applied. And everyone involved with this project have done a great job of that.
Smitty: So that’s very nice. And you are getting set to release your latest project and that’s the Gershwin project, Oh…can you tell me a little bit about that?