After arriving in the U.S. in the mid-’70s, David Nathan established himself as one of the premier music journalists and historians working in the area of black music and culture. The author of the 1999 Billboard book, “The Soulful Divas,” the London-born soul man comments that, with his latest venture, “I’ve stepped up my game!” The renowned R&B expert and award-winning writer – known throughout the music industry and beyond as ‘The British Ambassador of Soul’ – is referring to the natural evolution of his career from journalist, liner notes writer, reissue producer, media coach, broadcaster and website owner (www.soulmusic.com) to singer, songwriter and now, record producer… Read more
Nathan was the co-producer with musical partner Preston Glass of the 2009 Time Life album, “Songs 4 Worship-Soul,” which features new recordings by such artists as Teddy Pendergrass, Deniece Williams, Peabo Bryson, Regina Belle, Jody Watley, Freddie Jackson, Melba Moore, Evelyn ‘Champagne’ King and others – many of whom he has known since the start of their own recording careers. “Music is my first love, my lifeblood, my enduring passion. For years, I’ve been involved with writing about the artists, expressing my appreciation for their incredible and soulful talent. To be a part of creating music with them is the ultimate reward for me,” says Nathan “.
David’s introduction to the music of black America came when he bought albums by The Beatles that mentioned original R&B versions of songs they had recorded. “It was Dionne Warwick whose music I first bought when the song “Walk On By” came out. After that it was Martha & The Vandellas’ “Heatwave,” then Gladys Knight & The Pips, Irma Thomas and then I was hooked.”
David formed the first British fan club for the great jazz and soul diva Nina Simone and r his first writing assignment for the magazine “Rhythm & Soul USA” as a feature on Dionne’s sister, the late Dee Dee Warwick. Still in his teens, he co-founded Soul City, the very first British record store which sold exclusively the music of black America and later became a combination A&R and publicist for the company’s record label.
In 1970, David joined the staff of Contempo International, a multi-faceted enterprise that owned “Blues & Soul” magazine, ran a mail order for U,S. imports, had its own booking agency and record label; his primary interest was in contributing to the magazine and he has the distinction of being the most senior writer worldwide on the subject of R&B, having started in 1967 and continuing to this day. His passion for writing led David to relocate to New York in 1975. As the main correspondent for “Blues & Soul,”, David not only established a presence for the magazine within the U.S. music industry: he conducted literally hundreds of interviews with all the major black entertainers including Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Quincy Jones, Earth, Wind & Fire, Chaka Khan, Al Green, George Clinton, Smokey Robinson, Curtis Mayfield and Luther Vandross.
In 1984, he relocated to Los Angeles, authoring his first book, an illustrated biography on Lionel Richie which was published by McGraw-Hill in the U.S, and Virgin Books in the U.K. David launched his career as a free-lance music journalist in 1985 and his work has appeared in a number of key publications including “U.S.A. Today,” and Tower Records’ “Pulse!” Articles on such international stars as Janet Jackson, Sade, Bobby Brown, Anita Baker and Whitney Houston were published throughout the world by the “News America/Times Of London Syndicate.” In 1987, David began an association with “Billboard” magazine, contributing feature articles in a regular basis until 2001. From 1987-89, he also wrote for a variety of other trade publications including “Black Radio Exclusive” and “The R&B Report.”
Using his body of knowledge as a writer and columnist, David began accepting assignments from various record companies – including Rhino, MCA and Motown – for liner notes for key reissue projects. To date, he has penned notes for well over 300 reissue packages including box sets on Curtis Mayfield, Aretha Franklin and Earth, Wind & Fire. In 1994, David started working as a compilation producer on various reissue projects for his own Ichiban Soul Classics series, MCA and Capitol Records’ The Right Stuff label and to date, his impressive list of credits includes over 300 albums.
At the beginning of the ‘90s, utilizing his background as a music journalist, David was a pioneer in the field by launching his own media and interview coaching service. His clients have included platinum-selling artists such as Boyz II Men, Brian McKnight, Toni Braxton, Deborah Cox, Shanice Wilson and Tony Rich.
He has continued his work as a reissue producer and liner notes writer for a variety of companies including Rhino, Motown and RCA and in 1998, David compiled a five-volume series for MCA’s Hip-O label entitled “The Soulful Divas,” featuring a total of 57 female recording artists spanning the spectrum from Diana Ross to Nina Simone. The series also lends its name to David’s 1999 book, published by Billboard Books, an imprint of Watson-Guptill, with a forward by the late Luther Vandross. Quotes from the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Ashford & Simpson and fellow author Nelson George are a testament to the book’s validity as a first-of-its-kind collection of portaits on such legendary women as Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight, Patti LaBelle, Millie Jackson, Anita Baker, Phyllis Hyman, Roberta Flack, Doris Troy, Esther Phillips and Natalie Cole. A special chapter entitled “The Young Divas” profiled Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson and Toni Braxton.
In 1999, David launched his own website (www.soulmusic.com) which now features a number of David’s classic archived interviews from the ‘60s and ‘70s.
In 2004, Sanctuary Books (UK) published, “Nina Simone: Break Down & Let It All Out,” a book he co-authored with his sister, Dr. Sylvia Hampton and of his work as a reissue producer, journalist, author and now soul music e-tailer. With the release of his Nefer Music CD “Reinvention” in 2003, David stepped out front, encouraged by musical friends such as Bonnie Raitt and Doris “Just One Look” Troy to pursue his musical dream. In 2007, he released a second album “Wistful Elegance” (under the name “Pharaoh’s Dream”), which featured special guests Kenny Lattimore, Will Downing, Najee, Peggi Blu and Thelma Jones and boasted liner notes by the incomparable Roberta Flack.
A graduate of Landmark Education, David was the first recipient of the Journalist’s Award from The International Association African-American Music. A former L.A. Chapter Governor for The Recording Academy, he served as Secretary for The Rhythm & Blues Foundation for ten years and is currently an advisor to the non-profit organization.
Based back in London since 2009, Nathan is continuing his work as a music historian, author and reissue producer, while expanding his musical ventures as a record producer, singer, songwriter and performer. Through an association with Cherry Red Records, Nathan and Michael Lewis, longtime friend and a member of the SoulMusic.com team since 2005, relaunched the SoulMusic.com Records label – previously distributed through Expansion Records (with titles by Dionne Warwick, Angela Bofill, Phyllis Hyman and Thelma Houston) – and by the end of 2011, the reissue imprint will have a total of (30) titles to its credit. “More than anything else, I love sharing the music!” says Nathan, celebrating 45 years in the music industry. “In the words of the group Tavares (whose music is being reissued by SoulMusic.com Records, ‘don’t take away the music’! And that’s something I will never do!”
01 – Dionne Warwick – Walk On By (Make Way for Dionne Warwick, 1964)
02 – Aretha Franklin – I Never Loved A Man (I Never Loved A Man They Way I Loved You, 1967)
03 – Lionel Richie – Can’t Slow Down (Can’t Slow Down, 1983)
04 – Marvin Gaye – I Want You (I Want You, 1976)
05 – Nefer Davis – To Love Somebody (Snippet) (I Used to Rule the World…, 2011)
06 – Earth Wind & Fire – Imagination (Spirit, 1976)
Background music during the interview:
Nina Simone – I Put A Spell On You, Beatles – You Really Got A Hold On Me, Betty Lavette – If I Can’t Be Your Woman (Remastered), Nina Simone – Pirate Jenny (Live), Mavis Staples – Chocolate City, Elton John – Your Song, Nina Simone – To Love Somebody, Ashford & Simpson – Found A Cure, Curtis Mayfield – Move On Up (Live), Earth Wind & Fire – Devotion, Lionel Richie – Penny Lover, Lee Bates – Searching For Your Love, Diana Ross – Theme From Mahogany, Gladys Knight & The Pips – Midnight Train To Georgia.Follow @Soulinterviews