David Ritz

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For the corporate CEO, see Ritz Camera Centers.
David Ritz in 2008

David Ritz (born December 2, 1943 in New York City) is an American author who has written more than 50 books. In addition to his work as a co-author of autobiographies for a range of entertainers from Ray Charles to Don Rickles, he has written lyrics ("Sexual Healing"),[1] novels (Search for Happiness), profiles ("Stevie Wonder: Never Ending Song of Peace" in Rolling Stone), critical essays ("Robin Thicke, You’re No Marvin Gaye" in Rolling Stone)[2] and over a hundred liner notes for artists such as Michael Jackson, Sammy Davis, Jr., Sarah Vaughan and Nat King Cole.

Career and bibliography[edit]

As a ghostwriter[edit]

Ritz’s first collaboration was Brother Ray (1978), the autobiography of Ray Charles. Ritz has said that his initial intention was to write a biography until becoming intrigued by the idea of rendering the book entirely in Charles’ voice. “That’s when I discovered I had a gift for channeling voice,” Ritz told the L.A. Times’ Patrick Goldstein in 2012. “That discovery changed the course of my literary life.”[3] He would go on to continue ghostwriting for over 40 years, in various genres.


Actors and comedians[edit]


Other genres[edit]

Ritz has also written a number of inspirational books. Messengers, a portrait of African American gospel singers and ministers, was published in 2006. Ritz collaborated with Dr. Mable John on three Christian novels: Sanctified (2006), Stay Out of the Kitchen (2007) and Love Tornado (2008).

As a biographer[edit]

  • Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye began when Ritz met Gaye in the late seventies and was published in 1985, a year after the singer’s death.[7]
  • Faith in Time: The Jazz Life of Jimmy Scott came out in 2002.[8]
  • Respect: The Life of Aretha Franklin (2014)
  • Death of a King: The Real Story of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year, with Tavis Smiley (2014).
  • My Journey with Maya, with Tavis Smiley (2015)

As a novelist[edit]

Ritz’s fiction ranges from sports fantasies--The Man Who Brought the Dodgers Back To Brooklyn (1981)-- to jazz fantasies--Blue Notes Under a Green Felt Hat (1989) and "Barbells and Saxophones" (1989).

He collaborated with rapper T.I. on two novels— Power and Beauty (2011) and Trouble and Triumph (2012).[9]

Ritz has also written a number of romances under pseudonyms: Glory (1979) as David Nemeroff; Deeper Than Shame(1980) as Esther Elizabeth Pearl; and In The Name of Love (1981) as Jessica Lansing.

As a lyricist[edit]

The song "Sexual Healing" was a collaboration between Ritz, Marvin Gaye and Odell Brown, written in Ostend, Belgium, in April, 1982.[10] The single was Marvin's biggest career hit, spending a record ten weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Soul Chart and going Platinum (for US sales over two million).

Ritz’s other lyrics include “Brothers in the Night,” theme song for the motion picture Uncommon Valor; “Release Your Love,” recorded by the Isley Brothers (1985); and “I Offer You Love,” sung by Patti Austin (1998).[11]

As a journalist[edit]

“Happy Song: Soul Music in the Ghetto,” Ritz’s first critical essay, was published in Salmagundi (1970). Dozens of other articles have followed, including “History of the Jews of Dallas,” D Magazine (1974); “Kids’ Stuff: Jackson Pollock, Jimmie Vaughan and the Architecture of Las Vegas,” Art Connoisseur (1998); “Show and Tell,” introduction to Rolling Stone’s Tattoo Nation (2002); the forward to Lady Sings the Blues, the 50th anniversary edition of the autobiography of Billie Holiday (2006); and “The Last Days of Brother Ray,” included in Da Capo's Best Music Writing of 2005.[12]


1992 Grammy, Best Album Notes for Aretha Franklin's Queen Of Soul - The Atlantic Recordings[13]

1993 Ralph J. Gleason Award for Jerry Wexler: Rhythm and the Blues.

1995 Ralph J. Gleason Award for Etta James: Rage to Survive.

1996 Ralph J. Gleason Award for BB King’s Blues All Around Me [14]

2000 Ralph J. Gleason Award for The Brothers by Ritz and the Neville Bros[15]

2006 ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for liner notes of Johnny “Guitar” Watson: The Funk Anthology, released by Shout! Factory[16]

2011 ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for liner notes of Nat King Cole & Friends: Riffin', released by Verve/Hip-O Select.com/Universal Music Enterprises[17]

2013 Living Blues Reader's Poll, Best Book for When I Left Home: My StoryBuddy Guy and David Ritz – Da Capo Press[18]

2013 Association for Recorded Sound Award for Best Historical Research in Blues/Gospel/Hip-hop/R&B for When I Left Home: My StoryBuddy Guy and David Ritz(Da Capo) [19]

2013 ASCAP Timothy White Award for Outstanding Musical Biography for When I Left Home: My Story- Buddy Guy and David Ritz[20]

He was also nominated for five other Grammys: “Sexual Healing,” R&B song (1982); “Ray Charles 50th Anniversary Collection,” Liner Notes (1997); “Ray Charles 50th Anniversary Collection,” Producer (1997); “Ray Charles—Pure Genius,” Liner Notes (2005); “Aretha Franklin—The Golden Reign,” Liner Notes (2008).[21]

Personal life[edit]

Ritz graduated from the University of Texas in Austin, Phi Beta Kappa (1966) and received a Masters of Arts from the State University of New York at Buffalo (1970) where he studied with literary critic Leslie Fiedler.

He has been married to Roberta Michele Ritz since 1968. They have two children, twins Alison and Jessica, born 1974.



  1. ^ "Sexual Healing by Marvin Gaye". SongFacts. Retrieved 24 September 2013. 
  2. ^ "Robin Thicke, You're No Marvin Gaye". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 3 October 2013. 
  3. ^ Ray Charles; David Ritz (September 2003). Brother Ray: Ray Charles' Own Story. Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-306-81335-1. 
  4. ^ David Ritz; Etta James (28 April 2009). Rage to Survive: The Etta James Story. Da Capo Press, Incorporated. ISBN 978-0-7867-3041-4. 
  5. ^ . Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Blues-All-Around-Me-Autobiography/dp/0062061038. Retrieved 3 October 2013.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ . Google Books https://books.google.com/books?id=9y4O-oNU6FoC. Retrieved 3 October 2013.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. ^ . Google Books https://books.google.com/books?id=jgYOT-LxgxQC. Retrieved 3 October 2013.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. ^ . Google Books https://books.google.com/books?id=yDN5nslxwBsC&source=gbs_similarbooks. Retrieved 3 October 2013.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ . Google Books AND TRIUMPH&f=false https://books.google.com/books?id=1WaV3r2Vz9wC&printsec=frontcover&dq=TROUBLE+AND+TRIUMPH&hl=en&sa=X&ei=4BtDUp2vHKrCigLNh4HwBA&ved=0CDoQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=TROUBLE AND TRIUMPH&f=false Check |url= value (help). Retrieved 3 October 2013.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. ^ "Sexual Healing by Marvin Gaye". SongFacts. Retrieved 24 September 2013. 
  11. ^ . Song Writer Universe http://www.songwriteruniverse.com/davidritz.html. Retrieved 3 October 2013.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  12. ^ Hamlin, Jesse (18 September 2006). SF Gate http://www.sfgate.com/entertainment/article/Billie-Holiday-s-bio-Lady-Sings-the-Blues-may-2469428.php. Retrieved 3 October 2013.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  13. ^ Flannery, Thomas. "Past Winners". The Recording Academy. Retrieved 30 September 2013. 
  14. ^ Flannery, Thomas. "B.B. King". World Music Central. Retrieved 30 September 2013. 
  15. ^ Flannery, Thomas. "Bios on Bing Crosby, Bill Monroe and Neville Brothers Win 12th Annual Ralph J. Gleason Music Book Award". BMI. Retrieved 30 September 2013. 
  16. ^ Flannery, Thomas. "39TH ANNUAL ASCAP DEEMS TAYLOR AWARDS ANNOUNCED". ASCAP. Retrieved 30 September 2013. 
  17. ^ Flannery, Thomas. "43rd Annual ASCAP Deems Taylor Awards Announced". ASCAP. Retrieved 30 September 2013. 
  18. ^ Flannery, Thomas. "Living Blues Awards". Living Blues. Archived from the original on 16 January 2014. Retrieved 30 September 2013. 
  19. ^ Flannery, Thomas. "2013 Finalists (ARSC Awards for Excellence)". ARSC. Retrieved 30 September 2013. 
  20. ^ Flannery, Thomas. "45th ASCAP Foundation Deems Taylor Awards Announced". ASCAP. Retrieved 3 October 2013. 
  21. ^ Flannery, Thomas. "Past Winners". The Recording Academy. Retrieved 30 September 2013. 

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