Soul man David can count Dionne Warwick as a friend

ANYONE who tuned into the recent BBC documentary When Motown Came to Britain will have seen David Nathan espousing his expertise on the subject.

After all, it is not for nothing that he is known as the British Ambassador of Soul.

But the 74-year-old is also a respected writer, historian, singer-songwriter and performer.

“There was always music in our house when I was growing up,” David told me from his London home.

“We would play pop records — Alma Cogan was my favourite — and then we graduated to soundtrack LPs from musicals such as The King and I, and South Pacific.”

David can also clearly recall the day that he became hooked on soul, whose genres include rhythm and blues, and Motown.

“It was 1959 and I saw a newspaper headline which stated that Billie Holiday was dead at 44,” he said.

“I asked my mum who she was and she explained, in the vernacular of the day, that she was a ‘negro jazz singer’.

“Just then, a bluesy-gospel song came on the radio, and I asked my mother who was singing it.

“It turned out to be Mahalia Jackson and the song was Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child. Her voice touched something within me and struck a chord.”

Quite perversely, that led to David’s first real experience of antisemitism.

So taken was he with Holiday, he went to his local library where he took home her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues.

“I read it, took it back and then took it out again because I found her so fascinating,” he said.

“I was walking down the hill back home when another boy approached me and asked if I was Jewish. When I said that I was, he spat in my face.

“I’d never experienced antisemitism that blatant and when I got home, my mum said to me, ‘don’t get too friendly with the English’.

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