Phone interview recorded September 15, 2010
One of the world's most distinguished saxmen, Kirk Whalum has created a strong body of work over the last twenty years. Paying tribute to one of soul music's greatest artists is no mean feat but Mr. Whalum (the CEO of Soulsville, the Stax Museum in Memphis) takes it on. David Nathan finds out more...
David Nathan: Well, it’s my pleasure today to welcome to Soulmusic.com one of the premier saxophone players in the world, a gentleman who has had a distinguished career: Mr. Kirk Whalum. In addition to his many great albums, he’s also now the CEO of Soulsville USA, the Stax Museum in Memphis. And we are talking about the latest project from Mr. Whalum, and that is Everything Is Everything, and it’s his tribute to the music of the late, great Donny Hathaway. Do you consider Everything Is Everything; is it a tribute to Donny Hathaway?
Kirk Whalum: It is, indeed. The idea was presented to me by an excellent producer by the name of Matt Pierson, who happens to be a good friend and someone who actually signed me to Warner Bros. Records back when he was the president of the jazz department at Warner Bros.
Recently he’s just been out producing records and making music, and so… it was an idea, - like you know when you receive one of those pizzas where everything is done and you just need to stick it in the oven. And that’s the way this idea was, he had already thought everything through. He had thought through the connection between my own approach to music and Donny Hathaway—you know, the gospel connection and the fact that we both really do come from a place of gospel conviction, and that makes its way into the music. And so he said, “Man, this would be a perfect tribute if you’re willing to do it.” And I said, “I am.”
DN: Well, what was your first reaction? Because you know, it is a little daunting to pay tribute to someone who is so much of a legend, certainly in the soul music world and I would say probably in the black community at large, and certainly on some level amongst international music fans. It’s a little bit of a daunting prospect to pay tribute to anyone who has that kind of stature, for want of a better word. So when it was presented, did you have any trepidation at all?
KW: You know, not really, because I think of the ethos of the widow’s might. That’s a biblical narrative that most of us are familiar with where this woman—in context of people giving large sums to God, this lady gave her little farthing, or whatever—her little penny, but it was all that she had. And so basically it’s getting at the spirit with which one gives. So for me, I felt perfectly comfortable paying tribute to Donny because I esteem him so highly, and it was more or less an opportunity for me to give—he had given so much to us, you know.
DN: Yes. Well, before we go into talking in detail about the songs and selections, what kind of role—or, what role had Donny Hathaway played in your own musical history?
KW: Well, that, I think, was absolutely a stroke of genius—sort of serendipitous, and fate, and all those other things—when Matt Pierson brought the idea. Because as it stands, Donny was probably the most poignant influence in the way that I approached melody; the way that I interpreted melody, because I never was influenced nearly as much by saxophonists as I was by singers—and in particular, Donny. And then Aretha, and then you know, Chaka Khan, and then you know, other singers. So there was that, and then the fact that the very first song that I ever learned on any instrument—and Matt didn’t know this—the first song I learned was “Everything Is Everything”.
It was before I started playing saxophone—I started saxophone at twelve—but this was when I was, like, ten, and I had a bass guitar that I had sort of inherited from a friend of my dad’s. And I didn’t know how to play it; I’d just seen it played on TV or whatever. And so, that happened to have been the record that I had—I don’t know how I got it, even. But I learned that song. There’s a famous solo by Willie Weeks on that song “Everything Is Everything”—
Later, subsequently, [I] got to meet Willie and hang out and [he became] just a great friend—we both live in Tennessee now. But you know what? That solo was the first thing I learned, and so it just made perfect sense, you know?
DN: That’s really amazing—that’s really, really, amazing [laughs].
KW: You couldn’t make that up, right?
DN: No, you couldn’t, you really couldn’t. And you don’t actually recall how the album came into your household, do you?
KW: I do not remember. I think my aunt was in the music business—you know, a record company, and something like that, and doing promotions I think—but I think we just got some promo copies of some albums. And knowing that I was way into music, they all matriculated into my hands. Some other records too by the way, like Wild Cherry and Average White Band...
DN: Wow. Okay [laughs]. After getting Everything Is Everything, and that being the first song you learned, did you then become a fervent Donny Hathaway fan and collect the rest of his albums? Or was that really just, in a sense, an oasis, and then later on you caught up with his music?
KW: Well, as a ten-year-old you don’t so much collect records. But I tell you what: as I grew, I definitely gravitated towards his music, and yeah, when the records would come out I would try to get ’em. And he was ubiquitous. During that time, you heard him all the time on the radio—and that was, by the way, the way most of us got our music. We couldn’t afford records. We’d either buy the 45, or you heard it on the radio, and you just kept the radio on waiting for that song to come on.
DN: So he was definitely influential from a musical standpoint, than just from someone who you heard growing up?
KW: Absolutely, yeah, in a big way.
DN: Well, I guess the first, most obvious question about once you agreed to do this was: how did you pick the songs? Because obviously, I’m familiar with Donny Hathaway’s catalogue, as are many of the people who will be listening to you and I talking. And there’s just so much great music there, I would think that choosing was not the easiest thing in the world.
KW: No, and yet I will say that, back to the old paradigm in the thirties and forties and fifties, of producers being the people who just… dealt with all of that.
Your contribution was to be excellent at whatever it is you do, singing, or playing an instrument. And that’s a full-time job. I think to have someone, in this case, Matt Pierson, who came with a satchel of songs that we could—you’re able to just go through that sort of reduced list and say, “Oh, that one would definitely work”—it was a lot easier for me to pick out of a list that a great producer, an idea guy, had already chosen…
I love collaboration. You know, I think there are people who… there’s a kind of narcissism that goes along with being an artist—and my wife is shaking her head as I say that— But the narcissism part of it can be balanced by collaboration, where you do delegate things out—you don’t try to do everything. There’s Prince, and there’s Stevie, and there’s people that can do all of that, but I think for the rest of us it makes more sense to delegate some things.
DN: Yes. Well, once you started going over the list, I’m assuming—well, I shouldn’t assume, but were there songs that you were not familiar with? Or were you familiar with everything?
KW: No, no, no. In fact, there was one song in particular that ended up being a centerpiece on this record and the perfect song for Lalah [Hathaway] to perform—Donny’s daughter—and it’s a song that was recorded by Cold Blood with Lydia Pense on lead vocals, called “You Had to Know”. And I did not know that song. And you know, again rightfully, ’cause I was a Donny fan, of so much of all of the songs that he wrote. And so that was a good example of that.
DN: Well, it’s interesting you mention that, because I am familiar with the song, but only by a version by someone—I don’t want to say obscure, but someone who very few people would have heard, and that’s a recording artist by the name of Zulema.
KW: Oh yeah, absolutely, I know of that recording.
DN: Yeah. And I remember when she recorded it, ’cause I actually knew her when she lived in New York and I lived in New York. And I kept wondering, where does this Donny Hathaway song come from, because it wasn’t on any Donny Hathaway albums? So I actually only discovered, by hearing your version and reading the bio, that the song had previously been recorded by Cold Blood. ’Cause I always thought it was Zulema who did it first, ’cause I had never heard of any other version. So quite interesting, the history of the song. You are probably are now only the third person who’s ever done it.
KW: Wow, wow—I bet that’s gonna change [laughs]. I honestly believe [Lalah’s] version will be the one that people will try to measure up to.
DN: Absolutely, yeah, absolutely. Well, since we’re talking about that, it’s a great jumping-off point: I read in your bio that you… were a little hesitant to ask her to do this. Is that correct?
KW: That is true, because the pastor part of me and the big brother part of me is extremely sensitive to what a person would go through, you know, when your father is mixed up with mental illness and eventually takes his life. I mean, that’s a big thing. And though she certainly had time to process that, that’s not something you’re going to get over completely. And so I just figured I don’t want to, for my own selfish purposes, say, “Lalah, why don’t you come sing one of your dad’s songs?” But both Matt and I—and especially Matt, because he was the one who suggested the song, said “How about a song that he wrote that he didn’t sing?” And as it turned out, that turned out to be perfect. She loved the song, and you can hear that in her performance.
DN: Was she familiar with the song?
KW: Apparently so, man. The thing I say about Lalah is she’s somewhat of a music historian—a musicologist—she went to Berklee School of Music, and so has a very thorough music training. She’s somebody whos pedigreed, as they say.
DN: Yes, absolutely. And of course, I know there are other vocal contributions, but the one that I guess most people will be familiar with in terms of name is Musiq Soulchild on the song “We’re Still Friends”. How did that collaboration come about, and how did the two of you hook up?
KW: Well, I had met him once before and was a fan of his and just watched his rise. It’s really incredible to see someone like him, who is the best of both worlds, in a sense—where he represents everything that’s to come in the way that, you know, in the ’80’s the ship sort of changed direction, changed courses, with the rappers and scratchers and the whole hip-hop culture. So he came up in that, but he has a very altruistic connection with the great soul singers—in particular, Donny Hathaway. So it was a natural decision to ask him to do this.
DN: Well, I don’t want to jump around too much, and I don’t want to go into every song, ’cause we’ll probably have a very long interview, but I do have to ask you: what was the most challenging of the songs on this album, for you?
KW: I think, probably, “A Song For You”. You know, that song has just been done and redone so many times. It’s not a song that Donny wrote but again, it’s a song that he put his magical touch on, and it became the quintessential version of that song. That one, I think, was one that I had a couple of sleepless nights, you know [laughs]?
But I’m glad we did it, because [of] the arrangement.. we were fortunate to get Bill Goldstein, who is a classic New York arranger—jazz, rhythm and blues, classic, all of that—and so his take on it really does take it into another space: kinda chamber music meets Motown soul.
DN: Yes, yes. And actually, I see you assembled some really great musicians for this project. Are they all musicians that you’ve worked with before?
KW: They are all musicians I’ve worked with before. And the other funny thing is that, you know, they’re all Philadelphia musicians. I don’t know how that happened, but from Memphis I think there’s a natural connection between Stax and the Philly sound, you know? So I don’t think we’re the first ones to make that connection, but I’m sure it did end up being a great choice.
DN: And how long did the album take you to make?
KW: We actually did the record in about… I’m gonna say a month. The recording part of it, the actual sessions, took about a week, because we did it all in New York, and there was a lot of pre-production, sort of pre-arranging and things that Matt had really scoped out, so by the time we got in the studio there were a lot of musicians there at once. We did it like we did it in the old days. I’m there with this lovely chamber orchestra and the rhythm section, and we’re carving away, you know.
DN: You mean, you did it the way Donny Hathaway used to record [laughs].
KW: Yeah, exactly right [laughs]. Yeah, I guess you could say that.
DN: Yeah, well, much like that—and that does produce a certain, organic kind of sound. I think that’s probably what people can hear throughout this album.
KW: I hope so, man.
DN: I want to ask you about a few more songs. You did “Giving Up” - even though the song had been done before—specifically, by Gladys Knight and the Pips, actually, and a lot of people don’t know that… Donny’s version is really considered to be the definitive version. And from listening to it, I can tell you approached it a little differently. Did you have any concerns about people saying, “Well, that doesn’t quite sound like the way I remember [example] ‘Giving Up’?”
KW: Well you know, not really, because I think, if anything, Gladys Knight and the Stax artists and the Motown artists proved that if you just jump on out there and use your imagination and come up with arrangements that have their own identity, people will eventually categorize that. They’ll either like it or not, but they’ll put it in its own space and say, oh, wow, this is a very cool proof of the fact that a great song can be turned inside out and you can put another new suit on it, and you know [laughs] it’ll still end up being a great song. And in the case of “Giving Up”, we took it out of triple-meter and put it in 4/4, and it made it really have a different kind of swing to it.
DN: I’m just noticing in your bio the mention, particularly, of the song “I Need You Right Now”, and… “There’s a fine line between sacred and secular, and Donny blew that away. I forgot I was in a studio, I went off into a corner, just worshiping God with a horn.” Well, what was that experience like for you, doing that song?
KW: Well, that’s an experience I have a lot, you know. ’Cause my instrument is really just that: it’s an instrument of praise; an instrument to bring me closer—a vehicle—to the great Improviser, the great Musician. So for me, I go there all the time. I’m not always able to get there—for whatever distractions, that being internal or external—but when all things are right I can connect with God in a unique way. And I’m not saying I’m the only one that does it—there are many musicians that attribute all beauty, and especially music, to God the creator. So that comes through. You know, and it’s something of a non-evangelical explanation, you’re just bearing with it—you’re testifying. He’s the great lover of lovers. And that’s really what Donny did; that’s what his music did—that was the power behind it, and I always experience that— When I’m lucky, I get into that space. And that was one of those times, when we were doing that song “We Need You Now” - I mean goodness gracious, it’s never been truer than it is in this moment. You look around in England and the United States and the Middle East and Haiti… it’s just everywhere.
DN: Yes. Well, it’s interesting how you articulated what you just did, because I just noticed there’s five bonus tracks, one of which is my favourite Donny Hathaway recording, which is “Thank You Master (For My Soul)”.
KW: Yes, indeed.
DN: And so that, for me, fits in with what you just said. Now, when it says here they’re available for download, are they available yet?
KW: I’m glad you mentioned that—it’s like you’re teasing everybody. You’re the first one that’s mentioned that. I guess it’s only fitting that since England loves Donny Hathaway so much, that England would be the first to hear our little secret that’s not a secret anymore, and I’m glad. You’re the man—you let the cat out of the bag. So we’ve got five other songs that we recorded, including a Christmas song, that are not available yet. But we’re going to make those available in some kind of special way—Internet, and maybe this station will have some kind of special offer or something—we’re going to think of some cute ways to get those out. But they’re a part of the project that is not on the CD, and now in the age of downloads, this will be something that people can have that’s unique—it’s a separate sort of experience.
DN: Well, I can’t wait to hear what you did with “Thank You Master (For My Soul)”, because I have to tell you that personally, every time—every single time that I have ever, ever listened to that track by Donny Hathaway, I get chills—every time. It has never failed. I don’t play it that often because it’s really intense to me, it’s like a very intense performance. And that it has that effect on me every time—it’s not something that I would want to be having every single day—
KW: Exactly, I understand that—and David, honestly, I truly believe that you’re going to get that same feeling with this one. And you’re right, it’s a unique connection that this music makes with the listener. There are folks who are not really on that ship, when it comes to, “I’m a Christian,” or “I’m a Muslim,” or whatever. There are people who say, “I’m not into God at all.” That’s fine. When you hear this music, I guarantee you it’s going to make you question that. You’re gonna say, “Well, there’s gotta be something else,” you know [laughs]?
DN: Wow, wow. Well, let me ask you, because given who Donny Hathaway was and who he is for people, when you were in the studio, did you have the experience of being connected with him?
KW: You know, I’ll say yes. I just feel like Donny’s music has never been far from my musical experience. I can’t think of a time that he wasn’t there. I’ll give you an example: when I toured with Whitney Houston—and I came to England with Whitney a few times—but you know, she would sing “A Song for You” on the show. Again, it wasn’t anything that she had ever recorded and it wasn’t part of the show, technically, but she would sing that song. And that’s just one example that you’re never far away from him. “Valdez in the Country”—that’s one of the songs that, if you’re in a jam session at a jazz gig, you’re probably gonna play that song.
DN: Was there one song—I know this is kind of a hard question, but, well, sometimes it’s okay to ask hard questions—
KW: That’s right.
DN: [Laughs] Is there one track—one track, out of all the things that you recorded, that is particularly special to you personally?
KW: Absolutely. [Laughs] Yeah, and it’s the one track that I did not know until Matt Pierson brought this project to my attention, and it’s “You Have to Know”. You know, Lalah—what can I say? Hearing her sing, you’re hearing this amazing artist who has her own identity and her own gift and everything, but you’re also hearing the spirit of this amazing artist who impacted millions of people, including thousands and thousands of artists and musicians. But once she sings this song, I take it personally, because I am in that demographic of people who can say that I married my soul mate and I’m still in love with her. I think that there… I say that with a great deal of humility, because I know that that’s not everyone’s experience. And yet, I do know that we all have a lot of love to give and there’s so many people who need it. Earlier, we mentioned Haiti, we mentioned—you know, all the unrest in London and England. There are people… honestly, what they need is affirmation. They need love. They need to know that they are accepted for who they are. So again, I’ve worked out incidences and explanations that say that my experiences of a love relationship with [my wife] Ruby is one thing; but it’s not the only expression or experience of true love. I think everybody can experience that. And there are so many people who need love. So after having said that, for me personally, that song—there are lyrics in that song that bring me to tears when [it says], “You stood by my side/You held on to my hand.” I think that’s something that… that speaks to what true love is about. And I think what people see on TV and movies or whatever, and they say, “That’s what love is.” I say, well, yeah, but not completely. Underneath there’s a great deal of forgiveness and patience and genuine care—caring for people. It is romantic, but it’s deeper than that, you know. And so that’s what that song means to me, and that makes that song definitely stand out on that record for me.
DN: Yes. Well, I want to ask you about one more track on here, then I have a couple more questions to ask you about other things related to your life and career. The final track on this album, “Everything Is Everything”, actually combines Donny’s “Voices Inside” with Lauren Hill’s “Everything Is Everything”. And whose idea was that?
KW: That, absolutely, was Matt’s idea. We all sat down… when you’re in a room full of great musicians, you all kind of chip in. I mean, I was arranging, he was arranging, the bass player was arranging—you know, Christian McBride, for God’s sake—you don’t just have him sitting there playing the bass. You say, “Well, what do you—” …you know. And then a little John Roberts on drums, you say, “Now, what do you think?” And so you all just get in there, and that’s the joy of doing a record like that, where you’re all in there at the same time. And that was an example of Matt having this overall concept of how this should go, and then we all just started chipping in. And that’s how records were made back then.
DN: Yes. And my question in regards to the whole project is: in the context of your career, and your recording career, where do you see this?
KW: Hm. Well, it’s interesting. I had set out to sort of alternate projects. A few years back, I did a CD called For You. That was all covers of other people’s—basically, hopefully, a song list, a playlist of people’s favourite songs, you know? It didn’t have as much to do with me as it did with the listener, so that’s why we called it For You. And then what I was able to do was, the next record was all me—my compositions, my arrangements, my production, blah-blah-blah—and collaborating with producers and arrangers and all of that. Then the next record was the Babyface Songbook, so again I’m back to doing… I’m just an interpreter; I’m just there to interpret the song. Then I did Roundtrip, which was again, back to my stuff. And now the Donny project. So that’s the sort of pattern that I established, I don’t know how long I’ll be able to keep it up—
But in this case, I definitely see this record… I read a comment a writer said, that he listened to this record and he thought this would be the record my career would be judged on. And that kind of sends a shiver up your spine, you know, like whoa! [Laughs] I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing, but I would have to agree in one sense, and that’s when it comes to the essence of who I am as an artist I think this record captures that.
DN: Really? Well, that’s a pretty heavy statement.
KW: Right. Well, I’m grateful I’m fifty-two and I can say that, God willing, I have a few more years to do this. I hope it’s not my swansong, but [laughs]—I’m grateful to be out here making music. And by the way, I’ve just finished touring—just this past week we did our last date with Gerald Albright, Jeff Lorber and Peter White, who are my favourite musicians. So definitely, it’s great to be out and making music. Although I haven’t been invited to England, lately, so I’m sending that out right now—“This is Kirk Whalum, send me an invitation to come play the album…!”. We’re gonna get right to the point, here.
DN: Okay—I love it, I love it. Well, I want to ask you—the point you just made is really interesting. And do you think that the fact that this album does have an association with a legendary figure is really what would prompt someone to say this is what your career would be judged on? More so, that it would really expose you to a whole other audience that may not have heard your music before?
KW: I think you’re right, David, I think it’s probably a combination thereof. One good thing about doing a project of someone else’s music, especially someone like Donny, is that it does kind of catch a person’s ear in another way. The fact of the matter is that Kirk Whalum is an artist. I have folks that like my music, but it’s not like you mention my name and everybody in the store comes around, you know.
DN: Right. Well, not yet, anyway [laughs].
KW: Right! And I’m good with that. But I think it is a great way of introducing oneself to another swathe of the listening public—and especially people who are into music—substance of music. I think that’s the thing that you’re wanting to try to burrow your way into; that demographic.
DN: Well I would be remiss if—given this interview is for Soulmusic.com—I didn’t ask you to talk a little bit about your current work at Soulsville and the Stax Museum. So would you like to tell us a little bit about what you’re up to with said Museum—and the Stax work that is done there in Memphis?
KW: Absolutely, it’s my honour. And to say, there are folks who will hear the name Stax and say, “Well, that sounds familiar.” But if I say, “Hold On, I’m Coming”, “I’m a Soul Man”—if I say, “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay”, “I’ll Take You There”, “Cheaper to Keep Her”—I could go on and on: “I’ll Play the Blues for You”… these are songs people know, and I think, people all over the world. So the fact that maybe they don’t know that that music and all those songs, and many more, came from a place called Stax Records—S-T-A-X. And it’s right here in Memphis, Tennessee, and it’s a record company that is now defunct, then restarted out in California. But the legacy artists are no longer recording there and the place was torn down—that’s the bad news which just boggles the mind. But then in the late eighties it was rebuilt, and now not as a studio or a record company, but as a museum—the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. And it’s the Stax Music Academy, which again makes it even more exciting: you’re celebrating the legacy of this music in the past, but now you’re also…perpetuating, I guess—the legacy into the future. Paying it forward through some really dynamic young musicians from the same neighbourhood—two of whom, by the way, just a month ago, received full scholarships to Berklee School of Music in Boston. So it’s a serious endeavour that we’re doing, to follow in the tracks of these great artists: Sam & Dave and Johnnie Taylor and Otis Redding, and on and on. So that’s what we’re doing at the Academy and the Museum. And folks can go to www.staxmuseum.org and they can see what we’re doing—and as well, come to Memphis and have some barbeque and check it out.
DN: Now how did you become involved in it? Obviously, I know you are a Memphian, but how did you actually, specifically, get involved with the Stax Museum?
KW: I was artist-in-residence. Ruby and I moved back home three-and-a-half years ago [from Paris]… My father was ill and he ended up passing away. But at that time was when I really rediscovered this great legacy—that I had heard about, by the way, when I was living in Paris. It’s like it took me living that far away to realize how far-reaching was the impact of Stax music. And yet moving back home, I found a place where I could contribute, as artist-in-residence of the Academy, and then eventually was promoted to the CEO.
DN: Wow. So you are the CEO?
KW: I am the CEO, which means that I’m the guy that looks around for the best talent to make me look good.
DN: [Laughs] Well of course as you probably know, Stax Records—in particular with European fans—is legendary. And I shouldn’t just say with European fans, because obviously it is worldwide. And I have to tell you that I have been to Soulsville, I have been to the Museum—
KW: Yes, indeed! My friend, Tim Simpson, here at the Museum told me that he respected you as one of the great journalists and radio personalities and all of that—
DN: Oh, I don’t know about all that, but anyway [laughs]. But I can certainly vouch for what you’re saying and certainly say that anyone who’s listening to our interview, if they should find themselves in the United States and they’re a soul fan, they should feel as much as they have an obligation—they may feel an obligation to go to Hitsville in Detroit; they should also make it an obligation to go to Soulsville in Memphis [laughs].
KW: And the big difference is that you can get better barbeque here in Memphis.
DN: That’s fine if you’re a meat-eater—I’m not, so it wouldn’t really make any difference to me [laughs]. But that’s okay.
KW: Oh, no we have the best barbequed tofu that you’ve ever had— It’s all in the sauce, man.
DN: It’s all in the sauce, okay. Well, Kirk, I just have to tell you, it’s been really a pleasure talking to you. All right, well, is there anything else you would like to say in closing to our soulmusic.com community?
KW: Absolutely. Check us out on Facebook.com/kirkwhalum or kirkwhalum.com, and we’re looking forward to… you know, forget about this online thing, let’s get together and hang out in England.
DN: [Laughs] Okay, cool. Well, I have to tell you, prior to doing the interview, of course, I had already been listening to the album - I always make it a point before I actually conduct an interview, just prior to that, to listen to the music that I’m going to be speaking about. Although I had heard tracks from the album before, I listened to it in its entirety just prior to calling you and I want you to know I had a wonderful hour—just over an hour plus—of great music to help me through my day.
KW: Oh, that’s fantastic, man. Well, I’m honoured, and I look forward to meeting you in person.
DN: All right, Kirk. Well, thank you, have a wonderful day, and we’ll just keep on telling people about Everything Is Everything.
KW: Fantastic, man—cheers to you.
DN: You too. Take care, now.
About the Writer
David Nathan is the founder and CEO of SoulMusic.com and began his writing career in 1965; beginning in 1967, he was a regular contributor to Blues & Soul magazine in London before relocating to the U.S. in 1975 where he served as U.S. editor for the publication for several decades and began being known as 'The British Ambassador Of Soul.' From 1988 to 2004, he wrote prolifically for Billboard, has penned bios, produced and written liner notes for box sets and reissue CDs for over a thousand projects. He returned to London in 2009 where he has helped create SoulMusic.com Records as a leading reissue label.