Jonathan Butler

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Jonathan Butler
Jonathan Butler in 2007
Jonathan Butler in 2007
Background information
Birth nameJonathan Kenneth Butler
Born (1961-10-10) 10 October 1961 (age 59)
Athlone, Cape Town, South Africa
GenresRhythm and blues, jazz fusion, contemporary worship music
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter
InstrumentsVocals, guitar
LabelsArtistry, Mountain, Jive, Rendezvous
Associated actsPacific Express, Kirk Whalum, Ruby Turner, Boney James, Dave Koz

Jonathan Kenneth Butler (born 10 October 1961) is a South African singer-songwriter and guitarist. His music is often classified as R&B, jazz fusion or worship music.


Born and raised in Athlone, Cape Town, South Africa, during Apartheid, Butler started singing and playing acoustic guitar as a child. Racial segregation and poverty during Apartheid has been the subject of many of his records.[1] His first 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.

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. In 1975 his cover of "Please Stay (song)" by The Drifters reached number 2 in South Africa.[2] The same year his cover of "I Love How You Love Me" by The Paris Sisters reached number 4. "I'll be Home" reached number 16 in 1976.

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. Two albums were recorded with the Express personnel, and some Pacific Express songs were later released on the 1988 7th Avenue album. All three releases were issued by Mountain Records.

Butler was signed to CCP Records, a predecessor to Jive Records in 1977. He left the label to join Mountain Records after a few years. The manager of Mountain Records, Paddy Lee-Thorp was also Butler's manager and in the early 1980s they signed Jonathan to Jive Records and 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 #27 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. His single "Lies", also reached the UK Official Singles Chart, peaking at number 18, spending 12 weeks, in total, in the Top 100.[3]

In 2001, Butler was featured in a compilation album that was a jazz tribute to Bob Marley produced by Lee Ritenour, A Twist of Marley. Butler's contribution to the album was a jazz cover of No Woman No Cry.

Butler maintained a loyal following in the 1980s and 1990s, in South Africa, the United States and Europe.

In 2006, Butler 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.[4] 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.

From 2005 to 2012 Butler lived in Bell Canyon, California,[5]


Jonathan Butler in 1996
Wayman Tisdale & Jonathan Butler CD release party at the AllStar Rendezvous Concert in 2006.


  • Introducing Jonathan Butler (1985)
  • Jonathan Butler (1987)
  • Inspirations (1987)[6]
  • 7th Avenue (1988)
  • More Than Friends (1988)
  • Deliverance (1990)
  • Heal Our Land (1990)
  • Harmony (1991)
  • Harmony Vol.2 (1994)
  • Head To Head (1994)
  • Do You Love Me? (1997)
  • Story of Life (1999)
  • The Source (2000)
  • Surrender (2002)
  • Worship Project (2004)
  • Gospel days (2005)[7]
  • Jonathan (2005)
  • Brand New Day (2007)
  • So Strong (2010)
  • Grace and Mercy (2012)
  • Merry Christmas to You (2013)
  • Living My Dream (2014)
  • Free (2015)
  • Close to You (2018)
  • Christmas Together (2019)

Live Albums

  • Live in South Africa


  • Best Of Jonathan Butler (1993)
  • Ultimate Butler (2002)
  • Christmas Goes Gospel: Tis The Season (2014)
  • Divine Voices: Pastors of Praise (2015)


  • Dave Grusin Presents West Side Story (1997) (Featured soloist - Maria)[8]
  • Gospel Goes Classical (2006) (with Juanita Bynum)

- Not sure why but the authors of JB bios always miss his first two albums. "7th Avenue" produced in circa 1984 by Hendrik Lebona and "Crossroads" produced in circa 1985 by himself and Manlio Celotti. From these two releases the CD release "7th Avenue" was made in 1988.


  1. ^ Henderson, Alex. "Biography: Jonathan Butler". AMG. Retrieved 20 May 2010.
  2. ^ Brian Currin. "South African Rock Lists Website - SA Charts 1969 - 1989 Acts (B)". Retrieved 30 June 2014.
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ [2] Archived 19 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Jonathan Butler's House (former) in Bell Canyon, CA (Google Maps),, Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  6. ^ [3]
  7. ^ "Jonathan Butler - Gospel Days - Music". Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  8. ^ "West Side Story". Retrieved 6 March 2020.

External links[edit]