That Time Luther Checked Bette Midler For Apparently Going Way Too Far With Him…It Was Epic

Posted On : February 12, 2021
Luther Vandross; Bette Midler

Before we all knew him as Luther- the mega superstar, Luther Vandross was a very well known background vocalist within the music industry and he became highly sought-after before his solo career kicked off.

He was once a background singer for Bette Midler. She had actually met Luther through David Bowie. David gave Luther his first background vocalist gig and Bette Midler saw him performing with David and was extremely impressed.

Afterwards, Bette asked Luther if he would be interested in working with her and Luther said ‘yes.’ However, soon afterwards, there was a big bump in the road in the beginning of their working relationship and Luther had to sorta check Bette. Here’s what happened on the very first day he showed up for his new gig with her, as was told in his biographical book…

After seeing him [Luther Vandross] sing background for Bowie, Bette invited Luther to tour with her.

When Luther showed up for rehearsal, Bette said, “You must be Luther,” and then proceeded to bite his nipple.

Luther wasn’t havin’ it: “Look, I know you’re famous and I’m not, but I don’t play that way. I don’t need this gig that bad. Back off!”

Source: Luther: The Life and Longing of Luther Vandross by Craig Seymour

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As you can see, Luther was never one to let folks impose their will on him…you can ask anybody who has ever worked with him that question. He was a polite dude, but he demanded his respect. I don’t think Bette was trying to necessarily disrespect him, she just wasn’t respecting his personal space and I guess since he didn’t know her that well, he wasn’t feeling that, understandably so. She couldn’t just go around biting the man’s nipples before they’d barely said “Hello”…LOL. Bette and Luther were able to come to a common understanding and had a good working relationship after that.

Luther also had a couple run-ins with a few other singers back in the day, some of which were was also covered in his biography. You can read about his beef with Anita Baker and En Vogue here.

Overall, Luther seemed like the kind of guy who took the approach of “don’t mess with me and I won’t mess with you, but try me if you want to and watch what what I do.” Luther, or “Luffah” as he is also affectionately known among us soul music lovers, is one of the greatest singers to have ever graced the game and that’s why we’ll always remember him – for the beautiful music he gave us and for the priceless freestyle moments like this one…