Few people have the stories—or the storytelling ability—of writer David Ritz. As biographer and ghostwriter, he's told the stories of famed artists like Marvin Gaye, Ray Charles, the Neville Brothers, and Aretha Franklin. With a new book, Messengers (Doubleday, 2006), Ritz presents the voices of those who have joined him in writing a recent chapter of his own story—the story of his life as new Christian. The book brings together his Christian faith, his gifts as a ghostwriter, and the music he loves.
The story of this particular book is intertwined with the story of how you came to faith. Would you share your story?
My work as a writer has always come out of my passion about what I want to know and what I want to learn. I got interested in Christianity as a young boy, because I fell in love with gospel music. I grew up in the golden age of gospel, listening to Mahalia Jackson, Mavis Staples, Sam Cooke, and the Soul Stirrers. Part of me loved it and wanted to believe in Jesus, and just take it on face value. But because I grew up in a highly intellectual Jewish environment, my default position was to approach the music as a cultural anthropologist or an ethnomusicologist.
I'd think, Oh, this interesting music from this ethnic group, and, here's what it's borne out of. Early on, a mentor of mine who loved gospel music told me it was suppressed sexuality and had nothing to do with anything that's real in terms of its spiritual content. I continued to have that attitude for a long time.
It seems like your career as a ghostwriter became an important part of your journey to faith.
My first book was the autobiography of Ray Charles, and that's how I discovered that my talent was for ghostwriting. ...1
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