Today’s post features an early record by Jonathan Butler, one of South Africa’s most respected and well known jazz artists in the Cape Jazz genre. Few people will know that this artist started his career as a teen idol in the same vein as Justin Bieber. The album ‘Spotlight on Jonathan Butler’ contains a selection of uptempo soul & boogie tunes and some classic soul ballads, produced by Peter Vee for Clive Calder productions.
Born and raised in Athlone, Cape Town, South Africa, during Apartheid, Butler started singing and playing acoustic guitar as a child. He began touring at the age of seven when he joined a travelling stage show, and was later signed up to perform on a string of hit recordings, turning him into a local teen idol. His debut single was the first by a black artist played by white radio stations in the racially segregated South Africa and earned a Sarie Award, South Africa’s equivalent to the Grammy Awards. In 1975 his cover of “Please Stay” by The Drifters reached number 2 in South Africa. The same year his cover of “I Love How You Love Me” by The Paris Sisters reached the Top 10 as well.
In 1978 he found the inspiration and encouragement to begin expressing himself as a composer and songwriter when he joined Cape Town’s best known jazz/rock outfit, Pacific Express.
Butler was signed to Jive Records in 1977, and in the early 1980s he moved to the United Kingdom, where he remained for seventeen years. His international breakthrough came in 1987 with his Grammy-nominated hit single, “Lies” which reached #25 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, and his cover version of the Staple Singers song “If You’re Ready (Come Go with Me)”, which he performed with Ruby Turner.
Butler maintained a loyal following in the 1980s and 1990s, in South Africa, the United States and Europe. In 2006, he was a featured vocalist on the album Gospel Goes Classical, produced by University of Alabama at Birmingham music professor Henry Panion. This recording, featuring arrangements by Panion, Tommy Stewart, Michael Loveless, and Ray Reach, rose to No. 2 on the Billboard Gospel chart, and No. 3 on the Classical Crossover chart. He was also nominated for a Grammy Award for his single “Going Home”.
Also in 2008, Butler guest-starred on George Duke’s Album Dukey Treats, alongside the late Teena Marie on the track “Sudan”, talking about the disasters of Darfur.
‘Spotlight on Jonathan Butler’ MFP 54748 -South Africa 1975
see also the official website of Jonathan Butler