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David Ritz

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David Ritz
Ritz in 2008
Born (1943-12-02) December 2, 1943 (age 80)
New York City, U.S.
Years active1970–present
Roberta Michele Ritz
(m. 1968)

David Ritz (born December 2, 1943) is an American author. He has written novels, biographies, magazine articles, and over a hundred liner notes for artists such as Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, and Nat King Cole. He has coauthored 36 autobiographies, including some celebrities' autobiographies.[1]

Career and bibliography


As a biographer


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."[2]

Other autobiographies co-written by Ritz include:

Ritz has also written an inspirational book. Messengers, a portrait of African-American gospel singers and ministers, was published in 2006, as well as memoir, The God Groove, in 2019.

As a novelist


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).

Ritz collaborated with Mable John on three Christian novels: Sanctified (2006), Stay Out of the Kitchen (2007) and Love Tornado (2008). He has also collaborated with rapper T.I. on two novels— Power and Beauty (2011) and Trouble and Triumph (2012).[4]

In 2016, Ritz collaborated with Willie Nelson on the novel Pretty Paper.

As a children’s book author


Brayden Speaks Up: How One Boy Inspired America (2021) with Brayden Harrington. Jason Goes For It (2023) with Brayden Harrington

As a lyricist


The platinum-selling song "Sexual Healing" was written in Ostend, Belgium in April 1982 and is credited as a collaboration between Marvin Gaye, Odell Brown, and Ritz.[5] Ritz was not originally credited as songwriter. [6] Ritz sued Marvin Gaye for songwriting credit; Ritz received credit only after settling with Marvin Gaye's estate after the singer's death.[7] Ritz claims that the lawsuit was settled because he had interview tapes with Marvin Gaye in which Gaye says, "These are great lyrics you wrote."[8]

Ritz's songs have also been recorded by Smokey Robinson, the Isley Brothers and Kem. David Ritz co-wrote three songs including the title track from Guy King's 2016 album Truth.[9]

Ritz co-wrote “Brothers in the Night,” theme song for the 1983 film Uncommon Valor.

As a journalist


“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.[10]

Personal life


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

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


  • Ritz has also been nominated for four additional Grammys: “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).[12]
  • 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 B. B. King’s Blues All Around Me[13]
  • 2000 Ralph J. Gleason Award for the Neville Brothers' The Brothers Neville[14]
  • 2006 ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for liner notes of Johnny “Guitar” Watson: The Funk Anthology, released by Shout! Factory[15]
  • 2011 ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for liner notes of Nat King Cole & Friends: Riffin, released by Verve/Hip-O Select.com/Universal Music Enterprises[16]
  • 2013 Living Blues Reader's Poll, Best Book for When I Left Home: My StoryBuddy Guy and David Ritz – Da Capo Press[17]
  • 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[18]
  • 2013 ASCAP Timothy White Award for Outstanding Musical Biography for When I Left Home: My Story- Buddy Guy and David Ritz[19]


  1. ^ "David Ritz – Interview". Penny Black Music UK.
  2. ^ Ray Charles; David Ritz (September 2003). Brother Ray: Ray Charles' Own Story. Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-306-81335-1.
  3. ^ Ritz, David (17 March 2009). Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye. Hachette Books. ISBN 9780786730469. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
  4. ^ Trouble & Triumph: A Novel of Power & Beauty. Harper Collins. 2012. Retrieved 3 October 2013 – via Internet Archive. TROUBLE.
  5. ^ "Sexual Healing by Marvin Gaye". SongFacts. Retrieved 24 September 2013.
  6. ^ De Witte, Patrick (March 14, 1994). "Marvin Gaye: van ellende naar Oostende". HUMO (in Dutch). Retrieved May 5, 2016.
  7. ^ Gaye, Frankie (2003). Marvin Gaye, My Brother. Backbeat Books. p. 145. ISBN 0-87930-742-0.
  8. ^ "The Story of the World's Sexiest Song – Studio 360". WNYC.
  9. ^ Mitchell, John (2 July 2016). "Guy King – Truth". Blues Blast Magazine. Blues Blast. Retrieved 26 September 2018.
  10. ^ Hamlin, Jesse (18 September 2006). "Billie Holiday's bio, 'Lady Sings the Blues,' may be full of lies, but it gets at jazz great's core". SF Gate. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
  11. ^ Flannery, Thomas. "Past Winners". The Recording Academy. Retrieved 30 September 2013.
  12. ^ "Artist: David Ritz". The Recording Academy. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  13. ^ Flannery, Thomas. "B.B. King". World Music Central. Retrieved 30 September 2013.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ Flannery, Thomas. "39TH ANNUAL ASCAP DEEMS TAYLOR AWARDS ANNOUNCED". ASCAP. Archived from the original on 12 December 2013. Retrieved 30 September 2013.
  16. ^ Flannery, Thomas. "43rd Annual ASCAP Deems Taylor Awards Announced". ASCAP. Retrieved 30 September 2013.
  17. ^ Flannery, Thomas. "Living Blues Awards". Living Blues. Archived from the original on 16 January 2014. Retrieved 30 September 2013.
  18. ^ Flannery, Thomas. "2013 Finalists (ARSC Awards for Excellence)". ARSC. Retrieved 30 September 2013.
  19. ^ Flannery, Thomas. "45th ASCAP Foundation Deems Taylor Awards Announced". ASCAP. Retrieved 3 October 2013.