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Jonathan Butler

By Chase Charles

Jonathan Butler (Born 10 October 1961) is a singer-songwriter, guitarist and composer. He was born and raised in Athlone, Cape Town, South Africa, during Apartheid, and started playing acoustic guitar and singing as a child. Racial segregation and poverty during Apartheid later became the subject of many of his records. His first single Please Stay (1975) was the first single by a black artist played by the white radio stations in Apartheid-Era South Africa and earned a Sarie Award which is South Africa's version of the Grammy Awards. He started touring at the age of seven when he joined a travelling stage show, and was later on Butler was signed to Jive Records in 1977 performing on many hit recordings which turned him into a local teen idol. In 1978 he joined one of Cape Town's jazz/rock outfits, Pacific Express - Cape Town's answer to Earth Wind and Fire [1] -. They recorded two albums and some songs were later released on the 1988 7th Avenue album. All three releases were under Mountain Records. In the early 1980s he moved to the United Kingdom, where he lived for seventeen years. His international break was in 1987 with his hit single Lies and his cover of the Staple Singers song "If You're Ready (Come Go with Me) were both nominated for a Grammys. In 2006, Butler was a featured vocalist on the album Gospel Goes Classical, produced by University of Alabama at Birmingham by music professor Henry Panion. These recordings rose to No. 2 on the Billboard Gospel chart, and No. 3 on the Classical Crossover chart He was also nominated for a Grammy Award for his single "Going Home", later in 2008, Butler featured on George Duke's Album Dukey Treats, alongside the late Teena Marie.

Jonathan Butler isn't really a jazz artist but plays rather a slightly jazz-tinged approach to R&B/pop. Contemporary R&B combines elements of rhythm and blues, pop, soul, funk, and hip hop. Contemporary R&B has a polished record production style, drum machine-backed rhythms, an occasional saxophone-laced beat to give a jazz feel and a smooth, lush style of vocal arrangement. Electronic influences are becoming an increasing trend, and the use of hip hop or dance-inspired beats are mostly used, although the roughness inherent in hip hop may be reduced and smoothed out. Contemporary R&B vocalists are often known for their use of melisma. As the disco era came to a close, producers began adding synthesizers and slick drum machine beats to African-American music. In its early years, mainstream R&B was very pop-oriented. Notable 1980s R&B musicians include Luther Vandross, the SOS Band, Mtume, Freddie Jackson, DeBarge, Loose Ends, Stephanie Mills, and Marvin Gaye. Jazz, on the other hand, started at the beginning of the 20th century, within the African-American communities of the Southern United States. Its roots lie in the adoption of European harmony and form, and combining them into their existing African-based music. Its African musical basis is shown in its use of blue notes, improvisation, polyrhythms, syncopation and the swung note (or tied triplet). From its early development until the present day, jazz has also incorporated elements from popular music especially. Butler is unique because he takes an extremely smooth and complex jazz guitar and singing style similar to that of George Benson (to which he is always compared) and mixes it with a simple hip-hop or dance type beat typical of R&B he also brings in the electronic element of R&B and blends it into the mix making his music very easy listening. In this way Jonathan Butler has an extremely European and western style of playing but of course with just a hint of South African groove and tendency to use repetitive phrases. Butler was the first black artist in South Africa to break through into the white radio stations during apartheid with his 1975 song Please Stay so you could say he lead the way in musics struggle against apartheid, lighting the path for all other African artists.

Butler is an admirer of South African stars like singer Miriam Makeba who was a prevalent Jazz singer in her own right and fused jazz, African music and pop , but he was also hip to the American soul and jazz artists who lived in the United States. Stevie Wonder, whose vocal melodies are often melismatic and make abrupt, unpredictable changes, became a major influence, and so did former-hard bop-guitaristturned-R&B/pop-singer George Benson who alternates between jazz, pop, R&B singing, and scat singing which is extremely prevalent in Butlers music. Later on the influence of gospel is highly prevalent in his music often making use of choral backings.

Title Please Stay (1975) Instrumentation Electric Guitar, Drum Kit, Organ, Choir,
Vocals and Electric Bass Guitar

Lord I Lift Your Name On High (2010)

Nylon Guitar, Vocals, Synth, Xylophone, Triangle, Shakers, Violin, Choir, Drum Kit, chimes, flute. This song has an extremely thick song due to the many layers of all the different instruments yet it has a very open sound to the ear due to its lack of bottom end sound (Or Bass) this is very typical of choral music or praise music. The melody is sung by the voice and often in a call and response manner the guitar or choir will answer. The violins as well as guitar keep the harmony through the entire song; later on a choir adds vocal harmony. The guitar also arppegiates its cords at times giving a more drawn out harmony.


The song is rather thin due to the arppegiated chords played throughout the song with no harmony really being held as well as an Empty sounding choir singing occasionally.

Melody Harmony

Tonality Metre Rhythm

The melody is a typical R&B melody and is carried by the vocals and at times by distorted electric guitar. This piece has an ostinato arppegiated chordal figure played on guitar throughout the entire song as well as chunky chords played on beat 2 and 3 (also on guitar) which give more rhythm to the song. There is also a choir that adds accenting harmony at places in the piece. This piece has a minor tonality consistently through the whole song which adds to the sad and reminiscent atmosphere of the piece. 4/4 throughout the entire piece.

This song keep a steady straight 4/4 rock/pop type rhythm the entire song, typical of pop nd orientated music. With accents on the 2 and rd 3 beat adding greater rhythm. The tempo is very slow as this is a ballad and, is consistent and does not change this is normal for pop orientated music. Larghetto or about 65 bpm.



This Song has a small dynamic range which is typical of pop orientated music.

Texture Form Mood Atmosphere

Homophonic* Verse-Chorus Form This song has a sad but hopeful mood to it. This song creates a reminiscent and sad atmosphere through its dreary, reparative phrases, slow tempo, minor tonality and sad lyrics on a girl leaving.

Because of its spiritual nature it has a major tonality to keep the feeling of praise and worship constant throughout the song. 4/4 throughout the entire piece I suspect this is also so that people could sing along to this song at church. This song keep a steady straight 4/4 rock/pop type beat the entire song, typical of pop orientated music. Again probably to make it easy for the listener to follow and join in. The tempo is slightly faster than that of Please Stay but is still relatively slow (about 70bpm) but this adds to the importance of the words and emphasises its meaning because it allows the vocals to really stretch out and give an open feeling. This song crescendos nicely in the middle of the song as a praise song should and has a fairly large dynamic range with instruments at multiple volumes the entire song. Homophonic* Verse-Chorus Form Praising, Happy, Fulfilling and grateful. This song creates a very spiritual atmosphere with a major tonality, use of choirs, chimes and percussion but a lack of bass adding an open or spiritual atmosphere to the piece

Representative Pieces
Please Stay - 1975 Lies - 1987 Going Home - 2008 7th Avenue - 1988 Lord I Lift Your Name On High - 2010

Bibliography ki/Jazz [1]