The ghostwriter of autobiographies by Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, and numerous other musical greats tells his own story of faith and recovery.
In this winning, remarkably candid memoir, Ritz (co-author, with Jessi Colter: An Outlaw and a Lady: A Memoir of Music, Life with Waylon, and the Faith That Brought Me Home, 2017, etc.) turns the table on himself. At 75, after capturing some three dozen voices for celebrity autobiographies, he recounts his life and career as a freelancer, songwriter, and author; his personal struggles with multiple addictions; and his eventual acceptance of Jesus, whose spirit he encountered over the past 45 years through the voices of musicians. “The divinity in music…has sustained me,” he writes. Born into a turbulent New York family (his blue-collar father, an outspoken Marxist intellectual and music lover, confided that he was cheating on David’s mother), Ritz flirted briefly with academia (the critic Leslie Fiedler was a grad school mentor), worked in advertising, and then, in his early 30s, convinced singer Ray Charles to collaborate on a memoir. Ritz continued to co-write books with musicians he admired, mainly African Americans raised on gospel music—many were preachers’ kids—and found himself gaining “Christ consciousness” in conversations with devout performers like B.B. King, Etta James (she asked Ritz to pray with her), Smokey Robinson, and others. Bored by his parents’ Judaism and grappling with bisexuality, a pot habit, and a speech impediment, the author gradually found self-acceptance through his “rapport with Jesus.” Ritz captures all of this in vivid, deeply felt prose that traces dysfunctions in his birth family and marriage, his work with blues and country singers, his pursuit of therapy and 12-step programs, and his present belief that “God is the groove.”
An inspiring, satisfying book affirming the author’s “immense” debt to African American music and how it changed his life.