American Idol Alum Ruben Studdard returns with new music in the form of a special tribute. The “Velvet Teddy Bear” celebrates the life of the late, great Luther Vandross, his greatest inspiration and idol, by releasing the tribute album, ‘Ruben Sings Luther.’
The 10-song offering features covers of classics like ‘Never Too Much,’ ‘Always and Forever,’ ‘Love Won’t Let Me Wait,’ ‘A House Is Not A Home,’ and more.
“My goal was to not only to pay tribute to Luther but to add my own passion on top of Luther’s brilliant songs,” says Ruben. “It all started with my mom who has always loved Luther and played his music in our home continuously – especially during Christmas. You can say I grew up with the world’s biggest Luther fan. In my young teens, I would perform a Luther song or two at weddings and people would keep requesting more of his hits. I recorded ‘Superstar’ awhile back which was Grammy nominated and sang different Luther songs during my live shows. But people always asked when I was going to do an album of Luther’s songs. Happily the day has arrived. It was a thrilling experience selecting the songs from his different albums and putting my own interpretation on them. I am so proud of this record.”
Studdard will support the tribute project with the 22-stop “Always and Forever Tour,” which kicks off on April 8th in Sacramento, CA and culminate May 13 in West Palm Beach, FL.
“As for the tour, we are not only recreating some of the production elements, musicians, background singers, wardrobe and lighting that were ever present when Luther took the stage, but my heart and soul will be in every note I sing as I honor one of the greatest vocalists we’ve ever had,” he adds.
Known for his smooth R&B sound and his genial personality, the Grammy-nominated Studdard won the second season of American Idol. Has been compared to Vandross ever since he set foot on the Idol stage. Studdard had included some of Vandross’ monster hits on the six studio albums he has released since 2003.
‘Ruben Sings Luther’ is Studdard’s first album dedicated solely to the legendary singer, Vandross.
“I think that this album for me was just a long time coming,” Studdard tells PEOPLE about why the time was right. “Since I won American Idol, people have been asking for me to sing Luther songs for a long time. 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.”
Studdard says he never met his idol – but came close in 2003.
“I never got the chance to meet him,” he says. “Actually, from my understanding, they were considering him to be one of the guest judges on Idol before he got sick.”
Vandross suffered a massive stroke on April 16, 2003, and died in 2005.
Stream ‘Ruben Sings Luther’ and see all the tour dates below.
SUN, APRIL 8 – CREST THEATRE, SACRAMENTO, CA
WED, APRIL 11 – THE ROSE, PASADENA, CA
THU, APRIL 12 – FOX PERFORMING ARTS CENTER, RIVERSIDE, CA
FRI, APRIL 13 – TEXAS STATION CASINO, LAS VEGAS, NV
SAT, APRIL 14 – CHANDLER CENTER FOR THE ARTS, CHANDLER, AZ
SUN, APRIL 15 – SYCUAN CASINO, EL CAJON, CA
TUE, APRIL 17 – SOILED DOVE UNDERGROUND, DENVER, CO
THU, APRIL 19 – THE KENT STAGE, KENT, OH
FRI, APRIL 20 – ARCADA THEATRE, ST. CHARLES, IL
SAT, APRIL 21 – POTTER CENTER / COMMUNITY COLLEGE, JACKSON, MI
SUN, APRIL 22 – SCHROTT CENTER FOR THE ARTS, INDIANAPOLIS, IN
TUE, APRIL 24 – BERGEN PERFORMING ARTS CENTER, ENGLEWOOD, NJ
THU, APRIL 26 – STATE THEATRE NEW JERSEY, NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ
FRI, APRIL 27 – THE ZEITERION PERFORMING ARTS CENTRE, BOSTON, MA
SAT, APRIL 28 – KESWICK THEATRE, GLENSIDE, PA
SUN, APRIL 29 – THE CABOT THEATER, BEVERLY, MA
WED, MAY 2 – NYCB THEATRE, WESTBURY, NY
FRI, MAY 4 – MOHEGAN SUN HOTEL & CASINO, UNCASVILLE, CT
SAT, MAY 5 – ROBERT PARILLA PAC AT MONTGOMERY COLLEGE, ROCKVILLE, MD
MON, MAY 7 – THE AVALON THEATRE, EASTON, MD
WED, MAY 9 – FLORIDA THEATRE, JACKSONVILLE, FL
THU, MAY 10 – HARD ROCK HOTEL, ORLANDO, FL
SAT, MAY 12 – STRAZ CENTER FOR THE ARTS / FERGUSON HALL, TAMPA, FL
SUN, MAY 13 – KRAVIS CENTER / DREYFOOS HALL, WEST PALM BEACH, FL