Salute to Luther Vandross, Divabetic

R&B superstar Luther Vandross died last night (Friday) at age 54. Cause of death “0_22_vandross_luther_obitunreleased,” but the papers note that he never recovered from a massive stroke two years ago. I am shocked to note that most of the glowing eulogies mention the word “diabetes” only in passing, generally in the very last paragraph of the story! Only Fox News hints at poor diabetes management.

He was a beloved soul singer who will be sorely missed. Age 54! This should not have been. Note that Luther’s father, brother, and sister all died of diabetes complications. Very heavy sigh.

Just a few months ago, Luther’s mother Mary Ida and his longtime personal assistant Max Szadek Boastnpost_1launched a new program called Divabetic with the tagline: “Glam more, fear less.” This campaign to mix “meds and mascara” is hoping to make taking control of your diabetes glamorous and appealing, especially to the black and Latino communities. Check out Max’s “Boast & Post” board, which is essentially a blog on who’s doing what in the diabetic diva world. The approach is fun. Sadly, the singer himself won’t be able to enjoy the results.


9 Responses

  1. Violet
    Violet July 3, 2005 at 11:06 am | | Reply

    Hmm. Something not sitting right with me on this one, Amy. Of course I agree that this death is a great loss. But I’m hesitant to jump to conclusions about a person’s health-related behavior, even when that person is a public figure.

    You ascribe this death to poor diabetes management–certainly possible, maybe even likely–but I see no facts that indicate this is definitively so. (Maybe you know more than I do, of course, in which case I’ll retract.) The Fox News story is gossipy to say the least. And as we all know, even people with good control may suffer complications–and furthermore, people who do everything “right” (not suggesting Vandross necessarily did, as again I have no idea) may still not attain good control.

    It seems overhasty to ascribe “poor management” to a diabetic simply because that person suffered a stroke and subsequently died. And because there’s a sense of judgment behind those words, they’re potentially an insult to the person’s memory and grieving family.

    I suppose you can infer from Vandross’s weight troubles that he may not have been managing his health well–but as Kathleen has pointed out in various ways, it’s not necessariy accurate to make assumptions about a diabetic’s behavior based on weight alone. Just a counterpoint to consider.

  2. Connie
    Connie July 3, 2005 at 12:26 pm | | Reply

    Amy, as opposed to the person who recently commented on your post, I applaud you for raising the issue that Luther Vandross’s diabetes may have been to blame for his early passing.

    By the way, several news stories do delve into more detail about Vandross’s diabetes. They also point to his weight fluctuations, which could have played heavily into his dying so young.

    One story (from even cites the fact that Vandross was a huge carb addict.

    Thanks for the tip, Amy. I now posted something on my blog,, after seeing your insightful post.


  3. AmyT
    AmyT July 3, 2005 at 1:07 pm | | Reply

    Just to set the record straight: I am saying that the diabetes is likely to blame for Vandross’ death, and not that the man is to blame for anything. There are many reasons for poor control, and God knows good control ain’t easy!

  4. Violet
    Violet July 3, 2005 at 3:13 pm | | Reply

    Connie, I don’t think it’s a negative thing at all to *raise the possibility* that diabetes caused his death, and I don’t think my comment indicated that I do. Such a suggestion seems reasonable and potentially helpful to people with diabetes. I was questioning the assumptions that 1) this was definitely the cause of his death, as Amy’s original post implied; and 2) he therefore managed his diabetes poorly. Particularly #2. Amy’s response clarifies both points for me. Thanks.

  5. Kathleen Weaver
    Kathleen Weaver July 5, 2005 at 8:40 am | | Reply

    Since my name was brought up in this discussion — and I think I’ll blog about this.

    Yes, I do think the public needs to be aware that both Luther Vandross and the NFL football coach Hank Stram died of diabetic complications.

    But no one should assume that Vandross’s weight problems CAUSED the diabetes. In fact, the weight problems can be a result of complications.

    I have weight problems, I’ve gained a great deal of weight since my diagnosis. However, I do work out on a regular basis, have extremely good control, and participate in a very physical activity. It’s a constant struggle.

    So don’t blame the patient, but do let the public know that diabetes is a tough decision to live with and it will kill you.

  6. Living With Diabetes
    Living With Diabetes July 5, 2005 at 11:13 am | | Reply

    Death by Diabetic Complications

    That’s probably going to be in my obituary and it has been in the news lately. Amy blogged about it in talking about Luther Vandross’s death at Diabetes Mine: Salute to Luther Vandross, Divabetic It’s in the news again with…

  7. Bill Braithwaite
    Bill Braithwaite July 7, 2005 at 5:13 pm | | Reply

    I did not know that Luther Vandross was a diabetic.

    It’s a very sad loss.

    Luther brought a lot of Joy, Happiness & Love into the world through his beautiful music.

    He will be sadly missed.

    I’m sure his amazing song “Dance with my Father” will be played for years to come. Now there’s a song that pulls at your heartstrings.

    He joins the likes of Marvin Gaye and so many other musicians that departed our company way to early.

    Regards, Bill

  8. Max Szadek
    Max Szadek July 12, 2005 at 3:00 pm | | Reply

    Hi Amy,

    I just read the e-mail you recently sent me. Thank you for mentioning ‘divabetic’ on your website. I really appreciate it.

    Wow! Your site is fantastic!

    Although I can see by several of the postings that my boss’ health prior to his death is an issue of great interest, I’d like to apologize to you and your members because I ‘m not ready to comment on this issue at this time.

    Luther was an incredible man and very generous and loyal employer. I am thankful to have amassed so many wonderful memories over the past ten years working with him. It’s hard to believe, he actually paid me to sit back stage and listen to his music!!

    At this time, I’d like to thank all the fans for their prayers, love and support – we read their letters everyday, sometimes more than once, over the course of Luther’s recovery.

    I really hope Luther’s legacy inspires to people to take better care of themselves and manage their blood sugar properly.

    I’m very committed to creating innovative outreach programming for TYPE 1, TYPE 2 and pre-diabetics and their loved ones to help motivate, support and encourage better health. Right now, we’re petitioning several fast food chains to add DIVABETIC ‘SUGAR SAVVY’ menu stickers to their menus to provide fast, accurate, easy to read carbohydrate information for smarter meal choices. And on a fundraising note, please check out all the different merchandise we have available in our DIVA SHOP — a portion of all the proceeds of DIVABETIC merchandise benefit diabetes related charities like the Charles Ray III Diabetes Association and The Stroke of Hope Foundation as well as The Diabetes Center of New Jersey.

    To find out more about our upcoming programs, people can go directly to: – we’re in the process of upgrading our system so new information will not be available for a few more weeks


    Max Szadek

    Amy: I know you had a question regarding our PINK DIVABETIC T-shirts — I’d like to answer that question personally — please contact me at:

  9. Person
    Person November 24, 2005 at 4:57 pm | | Reply

    Hello. Here’s the story:
    I was always driven to “pop” music. I never really payed attention to anything that wasn’t on the hottest radio station. I heard “Dance With My Father” on the radio this afternoon. I was truely touched, and i did cry. I now am in love with his music. Luther seems like such a kind man. I researched him and found out a lot of information. Knowing about his tradgic death, I just wish, if I just met him, I could give him a hug, and tell him that I care. It’s weird, because i feel like he is as close as a father to me now. I am truely attached and touched. I don’t know how to say this but… I love you Luther.

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