Soul star Luther Vandross has died at the age of 54.

The GIVE ME THE REASON singer never fully recovered from a massive stroke in April 2003, which left him in a coma.

Further details of his death remained sketchy as went to press.

A revered balladeer, Vandross was a backing singer for stars like DAVID BOWIE, Bette Midler and Barbra Streisand until he funded his own solo album, NEVER TOO MUCH in 1981.

His debut went on to sell millions of copies, turning the velvet-voiced soul man into an international superstar.

His romantic hits, like ANY LOVE, I REALLY DIDN'T MEAN IT and HERE + NOW, continued to make Vandross a big name throughout the 1980s and 1990s, while he struggled with poor health and weight problems in private.

He once claimed in a US TV interview he had lost "approximately" 120 pounds 14 times in his life. He suffered from diabetes and high blood pressure.

His last major success came with the hit 2003 album DANCE WITH MY FATHER, which he recorded just before his stroke. The album won him four of his eight Grammy Awards.

As well as recording a host of hits, Vandross also produced ARETHA FRANKLIN and duetted with Janet Jackson on THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE ARE FREE and Mariah Carey on a remake of romantic classic ENDLESS LOVE.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

02/07/2005 01:40