Soul legend passes away peacefully in New Jersey...

LUTHER VANDROSS has died at the age of 54.

The soul legend had suffered ill health for many years, battling diabetes and hypertension alongside fluctuations in his weight.

In 2003 he suffered a debilitating stroke, although he continued to record while in a wheelchair.

Vandross died peacefully yesterday (July 1) at the JFK Medical Centre in New Jersey, according to the BBC.

Hospital spokesman Robert Cavanaugh said: “Luther Vandross suffered a stroke two years ago which he never fully recovered from. Luther was deeply touched by all the thoughts and wishes from his fans.”

In a videotaped message for the 2004 Grammy Awards, Vandross said: “Remember, when I say goodbye it’s never for long…” before breaking into his hit ‘I Believe In The Power Of Love’.

After a successful career as a session singer throughout the 1970s, Vandross’ commercial breakthrough came in 1981 with ’Never Too Much’. He enjoyed a run of hits throughout the 1980s and 1990s including the duet with Janet Jackson, ’The Best Things In Life Are Free’.

His last album, ’Dance With My Father’, was released in 2003.