Singer Fonzi Thornton Talks About Luther Vandross’ ‘Hidden Gems’

Fonzi Thornton has paid tribute to his late friend and collaborator, Luther Vandross, by helping to choose some special tracks for Luther’s Hidden Gems album, available everywhere April 17th. Friends and collaborators since their teenage years, Thornton helped produce the forthcoming album, which contains a treasure trove of cuts.

When you were both teenagers, you and Luther Vandross became friends. Can you talk a bit about those days and how you and he honed your talents over time?

I lived in the Johnson projects in East Harlem, New York and his sister Ann lived across the street from me. [Luther and I] were actually introduced by a girl in church who went to school with him. I knew him from the time we were both 14 years old.

Luther was a visionary, even when we were young. When I first met him, he had a vocal group called The Shades of Jade, a very funny name. It was a group he was developing. They would sing at amateur night at The Apollo just trying to get discovered. Luther was very advanced. He was always that same singer, that same interpreter. We [eventually] sang [together] in Shades of Jade, myself and two other singers.

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