1) My first introduction to you was in the mid-1980s through your music reviews and articles for the UK's eminent Soul music magazine, Blues & Soul. Having returned to the magazine then, how did you feel about the Soul scene at that point?
I started writing for Blues & Soul in 1967 (initially under another name, Simon Frazier!) and was very active as a contributor from 1970-1975 when I moved to New York to be the US correspondent and later US Editor; I stayed with the magazine (with two short breaks in the ‘80s) essentially until the early 2000’s when the ‘direction’ had changed both in music and in the publication’s focus. With more emphasis on new artists and on urban/rap/hip-hop, my interviews with legendary artists seemed less relevant. My last article appeared in the 1000th issue in July 2007.
I watched the soul scene change over the years: I consider the ‘70s to have been the ‘golden era’ of soul music – when live instrumentation, real vocals and orchestral arrangements were still the ‘norm.’ With the advent of synthesizers and a more electronic approach and the ‘arrival’ of rap and hip-hop, the scene changed dramatically so by the ‘90s – aside from neo-soul artists like Maxwell, D’Angelo, Mary J. Blige, John Legend, Rahsaan Patterson, Lalah Hathaway, Sandra St. Victor, Kenny Lattimore, etc. – there wasn’t as much emphasis or attention on what I would call ‘old school’ soul music especially since few of the legendary artists I covered in the ‘70s and ‘80s were no longer recording on a regular basis.
2) You have liaised with so many great African-American/British music artists over your lifetime, whose music has made the longest impact on you and why?
That’s a very challenging question! Undoubtedly the music of Earth, Wind & Fire and the work of Maurice White had a profound affect on me, due to the lyrical content (songs like ‘Keep Your Head To The Sky,’ ‘Devotion,’ ‘Spirit’ and ‘Fantasy’ among others). Prior to that, I would have to say the music of three women – Dionne Warwick, Nina Simone and Aretha Franklin – since that ‘informed’ my love and passion for soul and R&B and allied forms.
3) Your website, SoulMusic.com, covers all aspects of the genre so thoroughly, what is the secret to maintaining such a relevant page?
We are challenged to keep it up to date, if I’m honest. There’s so much we could write about – especially with the enormous number of independent artists nowadays. I try to tie it into the artists, musicians and others who are inducted into our SoulMusic Hall of Fame at the site as well as relevant new music by classic artists. We’re also using modern technology more often now: the latest interviews I’ve done are all videoed rather than just being audio clips. We’ve come a long way from when all we did was publish print interviews! Nowadays people want to see and listen.
4) SoulMusic.com is also an archivist record label that manages to avoid clichéd re-releases and compilations. How do you find obtaining copyright and the process leading to the finished article?
I am very fortunate to work with a great company, Cherry Red Records with whom I began reissuing projects via our SoulMusic Records in 2010. The way it works is I select either original albums or ideas for anthologies to Cherry Red and they do the work in licensing from the major labels – primarily Sony Music and Warner Music with occasional projects from Universal. Paul Robinson is our main contact for doing the approvals and requests and working with him and the team at Cherry Red continues to be a good experience and has helped us create a real catalogue of music of which I am immensely proud. It was Paul who suggested to me that we do some anthologies and that has proven to be our most successful venture with Cherry Red: thanks to our great art guy, Roger Williams (a true soul man!), we have an identifiable ‘image’ for the series and it’s really made a difference in the response. So far, we’ve put out (9) anthologies and we have (4) more on the way! I’m hoping by year’s end, we will bring it to a total of (18) titles.
5) What does the immediate future hold for David Nathan?
I recently completed two tracks as a singer/songwriter with a brilliant Indian violinst/producer Aritra B and his musical partner Rajesh Ranjan Singh and the first one, ‘Echoes Of Shambhala’ is getting a great response on SoundCloud and is released at the end of April, with lots of womderful comments from people like Dexter Wansel, Sandra St. Victor, Gary Hines of Sounds Of Blackness, Preston Glass, Freda Payne, Linda Clifford and others who have heard it.
I’ve been recording off and on since 2003 and this is the first time I am approaching my creative activities in music ‘seriously.’ We plan to do my first proper music video and go all out to promote it – and it’s not R&B/soul music, I might add! It’s soothing, calming and healing soundscape type of music and I’ve dedicated that track to Maurice White.
I’m going to continue doing reissue work for as long as it’s viable to do so and I ‘may’ do a book or two including finally completing my memoirs (‘The Diary Of A British Soul Man’). I’m definitely not slowing down!
#6: David Nathan
50-year Veteran of Soul Music Journalism;
Proprietor of Soul Music.com/Soul Music Records