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Issue 1083

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Feature

DAVID NATHAN: RECOLLECTIONS

DAVID NATHAN (OUTSIDE MOTOWN)
DAVID NATHAN (OUTSIDE MOTOWN) ARETHA FRANKLIN & DAVID NATHAN DAVID NATHAN & ANITA BAKER DAVID NATHAN & JANET JACKSON

When asked to select artists Iâd like to speak with for our 1,000th edition, I thought of those who had some particular personal significance.

Several came to mind but all were not available the story of any working music journoâs life!) Having the distinction (which some may consider somewhat dubious!) of having had my name in the longest-running magazine devoted to R&B since 1967 (making me the most âseniorâ music journalist still writing about soul music on the planet!), I could have picked all manner of folk: I choose Maurice White of EW&F fame (because of our long history together and an unforgettable plane ride flying from Los Angeles to Seattle in 1975) and Chaka Khan (who I interviewed for the first time in 1974 when I was ensconced in my tiny Bayswater flat in London and she was having her first chat with a UK music journo from Chicago).

Looking back, there are so many memories from the first article I wrote for B&S â under the pseudonym âSimon Frazier,â required because at the time I co-owned âSoul Cityâ record store with Dave Godin and Robert Blackmore and John Abbey, the editor of B&S (which replaced his original âHome Of The Bluesâ in 1967) was working in the shop on Saturdays and use of my name in the mag was considered a conflict of interest! That first feature was on Aretha Franklin and ironically, three years later in August 1970, Aretha was the subject of my first B&S cover story when I turned an unofficial backstage chat with her at âTop Of The Popsâ (on which she performed âDonât Play That Songâ) into an article since she wasnât doing any UK press at the time, thus giving B&S something of an exclusive!

When I consider the most unforgettable moments during my forty years with the mag, at the risk of being accused of name-dropping, I recallâ¦
Riding in a limo in Washington DC with Dionne Warwick who was feeling a little âfrostyâ after leaving a train from New York and being asked by the (black) train porter if she was Diana Ross!
Doing an interview with Aretha Franklin in her then-home in Encino, California and conducting it only on the condition that she make me some of her famous peach cobbler dessert and having her oblige!

Meeting with Millie Jackson for the first time in October 1974 and being greeted by the salty singer with âAbout f***ing time!â after I got lost on the Brooklyn subway!

Interviewing George Clinton of Parliament-Funkadelic fame at a hotel in D.C. when he was wearing nothing but a towel!
My first in-person chat with Al Green at the Essex House in New York when he was wearing a fur coat but no pants!
My only interview with LL Cool J and getting a hug afterwards!
The first U.S. interview I ever did â with Nick Ashford & Valerie Simpson in October 1974 and sharing with Valerie (pregnant at the time and not very talkative) afterwards that I got the impression she didnât particularly care for doing interviews!
Playing backgammon with Patrice Rushen backstage at an awards show!

Constantly losing at gin rummy in numerous card games with my then-neighbour-prior-to-superstardom Luther Vandross while he shared his dreams about producing Aretha, Dionne and Diana.
Watching Esther Phillips cook Southern fried chicken at a hotel in Antigua after cussing out the organization who had flown her in from Italy for an awards ceremony at which they said she couldnât perform!

Telling Roberta Flack that before meeting her for the first time, I had been told she was a bitch! She laughed!
Being almost cussed out by Nina Simone for being late for a 1994 interviewâ¦until I gave her a bunch of flowers as a an apology and getting a kiss in return.

Giving Randy Crawford a rose after our first interview and then having her misinterpret the gesture as âromanticâ. Not! (And yes, there is more to that story but not for these pages).
Riding with members of EW&F to the New York premiere of the movie Sgt. Pepperâs Lonely Hearts Club Band and feeling like I had âarrivedâ in the big time! And at a post-show Studio 54 party getting an on-the-mouth kiss from a now-deceased famed organist/musician/recording artist in full view of Deniece Williams and others and feeling distinctly embarrassed! Well, he and I did know each other rather wellâ¦!

Watching a teenage Whitney Houston doing a vocal âstep outâ at one of her motherâs shows in New York in 1978 or thereabouts and thinking âwow, sheâs got some serious vocal chops!â Well, duh,â¦

Having an unnamed (I am not up for being sued!) mega legend run his hands up and down my leg under the pretext that he âlikedâ my trousers, only stopping when members of his family walked in to the room!

Watching another unnamed male superstar (Iâm still not up for being sued!) quickly throw a marijuana joint he had been smoking out of the window of his penthouse when his somewhat strict mother rang the door bell!
Going to a small storefront church in Chicago with Natalie Cole to watch her then-husband Reverend Marvin Yancy preach.
Getting a ride home from Janet Jackson and her then-hubby Rene after a mammoth two-hour interview session at her Malibu mansion and wanting to yell to all my neighbours that Janet was in the jeep parked outside my modest L.A. apartment building!
Watching Teena Marie rehearse in her Pasadena basement and being absolutely blown away by her soulful creativity and pure creative spontaneity.

Doing an in-depth one-on-one interview with Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff in London for the launch of Philadelpha International Records in the UK.

Having Chaka Khan call me âMr. Thingâ when informing a Warner Brothers publicist that she had known me for years! At least she said âMr.â!

Having Patti Labelle literally pull me onto the stage of The London Lyceum to boogie with her in front of a packed audience!
Playing cards for hours with my good good friend Doris Troy and almost always losing!

Being a âfancy dancerâ and shaking my âgroove thingâ in front of Aretha Franklin at a party she held in L.A. a few years ago and yes, there are photos to prove it!
There are of course many many more memories to share. My association with Blues & Soul has had its share of triumphs, victories, challenges, disappointments, upsets and more than a moment of drama (like not getting paid when I first got to L.A. in â75, living off fried chicken for two weeks, eventually flying to London to âcollectâ my money, returning to L.A. to find my phone cut off and packing the next day to go back to New York!). I thank all the artists Iâve interviewed over the years, including the non-responsive types, the perennially-late brigade and the constant âcan we change the time of our interviewâ team who have driven me and the B&S editors and staff crazy when deadline time comes. Eternal gratitude to Bob Killbourn, whose been with B&S for almost long as I have: your persistence and dedication are truly amazing.

I deeply thank John Abbey, the magâs founder, who gave me the chance to express my writing skills through the pages of B&S starting with that first issue in 1967, even when I very occasionally âplayed upâ (like arriving back from a Blackberries interview session a little âunder the influenceâ!). When John challenged my ability to survive as a somewhat-timid Englishman newly arrived in New York in 1975, I was determined to show that I could do it. That was 32 years ago. I never thought Iâd have the kind of life Iâve had, all stemming from my passion for R&B which started with Dionne Warwickâs âWalk On Byâ in 1964! (Thanks, Dionne). Now as the proud owner of Soul Music.com with my business partner Michael Lewis, I am still committed to keeping the soul music flag flying, celebrating the joy that this music has given me â and millions of others worldwide - through these four decades.

And having my name in B&S 1000? Not bad for a little kid from Stoke Newington with big dreams.
Words DAVID NATHAN

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