“I was born poor, but richly blessed with talent and the gift to make music. I can’t dismiss where I’ve been or where I come from. I am a proud South African and I came from nothing.” – Jonathan Butler
Born on October 10, 1961 in Athlone, a shantytown outside Cape Town, South Africa, Jonathan Kenneth Butler was the youngest of 13 children. Although his father, Abraham was a musician it was his mother, Elizabeth who organized a family singing group that would set young Jonathan on the path of stardom, fame and fortune.
Young Jonathan picked up the guitar at the age of 6 and started his singing career at the age of 7. In 1973, he released his first album and bagged a Sarie Award (South African equivalent of the Grammy) for Best New Artist the following year, while still a 12-year old. He became the first black artist to get airplay on white South African radio and had three gold records in 1975.
In his late teens, Jonathan Butler joined the Pacific Express, Cape Town’s best known Jazz/rock band, where he started expressing his talent as a composer and songwriter. Despite his stardom, he was still subjected to discrimination, as South Africa was still under an apartheid regime.
Jonathan Butler signed a record deal with British label, Jive Records and in 1985 he moved to London with his wife and baby daughter. His first international album Introducing Jonathan Butler was released the following year. His international breakthrough came in 1987 with the hit singles “Lies” and “Going Home” which received Grammy nominations for Best R&B Song and Best Jazz Song respectively.
That same year, Jonathan Butler had another hit with his cover of the Staples Singers “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)” which featured British R&B star, Ruby Turner, and was the opening act for Whitney Houston on her 1987 Moment of Truth tour which introduced Butler to the US audience.
An accomplished guitarist, singer and songwriter, Jonathan Butler has often been compared to American Jazz guitarist, George Benson while his music has been classified as R&B, Jazz fusion and worship music by critics. Since his arrival on the international stage, Butler has released over 20 albums, his latest titled Free was released on October 30, 2015.
Some of the artists he has written songs for include: Patti LaBelle, Kenny Loggins, Al Jarreau, Billy Ocean, and George Benson!
“I’ve come to a really good place in my life even if finding my way there was tough. …it’s amazing what God is doing – seeing all these things through tears and pain. Seeing God place me in these extraordinary places and opportunities…if I couldn’t see it, I’d really be blind and faithless.”
Jonathan Butler became a Christian at the age of 19, and he credits his late brother-in-law, his wife’s brother for leading him to Christ Jesus. In 2004, Butler released the Worship Project album with the song, “Falling In Love With Jesus.” Of his new album Free, he declares, “…this album is a testimony of God’s goodness.”
Purpose Kills Addiction
In 2013, he launched the Jonathan Butler Foundation in South Africa to fund music education programs which gives children from ages 4 to 17, the purpose to overcome a life of drugs and poverty. The mission statement of the foundation reads, Purpose Kills Addiction. Although he lives with his wife and children in New York City, Jonathan Butler has never been far away from his roots.
Afro Tourism celebrates, a quintessential music maestro, accomplished guitarist, singer, songwriter, loving husband, doting father, role model, city icon, national hero and living African legend, Jonathan Kenneth Butler!
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