The Soulful Divas

March is Women’s History Month AND World Book Day, and whilst I don’t want us to forget the men in our lives and the parts they play, as part of Angie’s Book Club during March 2017, I decided to feature a book that I keep going back to, it’s called Soulful Divas and was written by a music journalist who I have followed for years; David Nathan.

David has worked over the years with some entertainers who I have grown up admiring, so it was really great to have this book and get him in the studio to talk about some of them. I’ll be sharing the interviews I had with David about all these amazing Divas throughout the month.

The Soulful Divas is an unforgettable collection of provocative, unsanitized, behind-the-scenes portraits of more than a dozen of the greatest rhythm and blues vocalists of the past three decades, including Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, Natalie Cole, Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight, Chaka Khan, Roberta Flack, and Nina Simone, as well as Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, and Toni Braxton. The Soulful Divas was published by Billboard Books in 1999.

Based on author David Nathan’s personal relationship with the women featured, and an outgrowth of both interviews and informal chitchats, the book is an entertaining, candid look at the ups and downs of each performer’s career, as well as a view of how these African-American women have wielded power in an essentially white, male-dominated industry.

David Nathan is British, although he now lives in the USA and came to my attention first of all as regular journalist for “Blues And Soul” magazine and over the years built up quite a body of interviews which was used to inform this very readable and enjoyable book.

The foreword is written by a great friend of David’s, the much-missed Luther Vandross who was a great fan of female soul music and for a time, as a youngster, ran the Patti Labelle fan club.   Luther observes;

“What a rich legacy these women have given all of us, and I got much insight into each diva’s personal traits through his (David’s)  memories and recollections.”

I love love LOVE David Nathan and his unique perspective of all these amazing ladies. He’s had his ups and downs with them for sure and he gives us ALL the nitty gritty details. As an author, David walks the line beautifully between career observation, opinion and personal experience which gives this book so much depth and personality. He is called “The British Ambassador of Soul” for a reason people.

Nathan reveals in the first section how his passion for music developed (how passions develop always moves me) and it was actually all through none other than Britain’s very own Cilla Black;

“My bedroom wall was adorned with multiple photographs of the redheaded thrush.  In school, I defended Cilla’s version of “Anyone Who Had A Heart” until it got me into a few fistfights.”

In the UK of course, it was Cilla’s version of the song which rose to number 1 and Dionne had only a small hit with her original version which caused a bit of bitterness. Everything changed for the young David when he heard Dionne’s version of “Walk On By” which became her first British hit.  He begged his mother for pocket-money to buy her first album and;

“That LP has gone with me everywhere I’ve been ever since that day in 1964.  As it would turn out, Dionne’s music not only served as my introduction to the world of African-American artists, but also literally gave me the blessed life and wonderful career I’ve had in the music industry for the past three decades.”

I’ve interviewed David about EACH of these Divas and you can listen to all of them on my Soundcloud here