Vandross also sang backing vocals for artists, including Roberta Flack, Chaka Khan, Ben E. King, Bette Midler, Diana Ross, Carly Simon, Barbra Streisand, David Bowie, Cat Stevens, Gary Glitter, Ringo Starr, Sister Sledge, and Donna Summer, and for the bands Mandrill, Chic and Todd Rundgren's Utopia.
Before his solo breakthrough, Vandross was part of a singing quintet named Luther in the late 1970s. The quintet consisted of former Shades of Jade members Anthony Hinton and Diane Sumler, as well as Theresa V. Reed, and Christine Wiltshire, signed to Cotillion Records. Although the singles "It's Good for the Soul", "Funky Music (Is a Part of Me)", and "The Second Time Around" were relatively successful, their two albums, the self-titled Luther (1976) and This Close to You (1977), which Vandross produced, did not sell enough to make the charts. Vandross bought back the rights to those albums after Cotillion dropped the group, preventing them from being re-released.