Ritz, David 1943–

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Ritz, David 1943–

(Esther Elizabeth Pearl)


Born December 2, 1943, in New York, NY; son of Milton M. (a stockbroker) and Pearl Ritz; married Roberta Plitt (a comedienne); children: Alison, Jessica (twins). Education: University of Texas, B.A., 1966; State University of New York at Buffalo, M.A., 1969. Religion: Jewish.


Home—Los Angeles, CA.


Writer. Bloom Advertising, Dallas, TX, copywriter, 1961-70; Houston/Ritz/Cohen/Jagoda (advertising agency), New York, NY, owner, 1971-75; writer, 1975—. Teacher at University of Pennsylvania, 1969.


Fulbright scholar, 1968.



(With Ray Charles) Brother Ray: Ray Charles' Own Story, Dial (New York, NY), 1978.

(With Marvin Gaye) Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1985, updated and with new introduction, Da Capo Press (New York, NY), 1991.

(With Smokey Robinson) Smokey: Inside My Life, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1989.

(With Jerry Wexler) Rhythm and Blues: A Life in American Music, Knopf (New York, NY), 1993.

Ray Charles: Voice of Soul, Chelsea House (New York, NY), 1994.

(With Etta James) Rage to Survive: The Etta James Story, Villard Books (New York, NY), 1995.

(With B.B. King) Blues All around Me: The Autobiography of B.B. King, Avon (New York, NY), 1996.

(With Sinbad) Sinbad's Guide to Life: Because I Know Everything, Bantam (New York, NY), 1997.

(With Aretha Franklin) Aretha: From These Roots, Villard Books (New York, NY), 1999.

(With others) The Brothers Neville, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2000.

(With Laila Ali) Reach! Finding Strength, Spirit, and Personal Power, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2002.

(With Robert Guillaume) Guillaume: A Life, University of Missouri Press (Columbia, MO), 2002.

(With Jimmy Scott) Faith in Time: The Life of Jimmy Scott, Da Capo Press (Cambridge, MA), 2002.

(With Walter Yetnikoff) Howling at the Moon: Confessions of a Music Mogul in an Age of Excess, Broadway Books (New York, NY), 2004.

(Editor) Elvis by the Presleys, still-life photography by Henry Leutwyler, Crown (New York, NY), 2005.

(With Tavis Smiley) What I Know for Sure: My Story of Growing Up in America, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2006.

Messengers: Portraits of African American Ministers, Evangelists, Gospel Singers, and Other Messengers of "the Word," photographs by Nicola Goode, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2006.


Glory (novel), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1979.

Search for Happiness (novel), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1980.

The Man Who Brought the Dodgers Back to Brooklyn (novel), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1981.

Blue Notes under a Green Felt Hat (novel), Donald I. Fine (New York, NY), 1989.

Barbells and Saxophones, Donald I. Fine (New York, NY), 1989.

Family Blood, Donald I. Fine (New York, NY), 1991.

Passion Flowers, D.I. Fine (New York, NY), 1992.

Take It off, Take It All Off, D.I. Fine (New York, NY), 1993.

(With Mable John) Sanctified Blues (novel), Harlem Moon/Broadway Books (New York, NY), 2006.

Also author of novel, Deeper Than Shame, under pseudonym Esther Elizabeth Pearl.


David Ritz is the author of novels and of biographies of celebrity performers such as Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, and Smokey Robinson of the Miracles. Brother Ray: Ray Charles' Own Story, Ritz's biography of the famed soul singer, impressed singer Marvin Gaye to commission a similar book. Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye, informed by the friendship that formed between Ritz and his subject and published after the singer's tragic death, "is a personal history and at the same time a sweeping saga of black music over the past three decades," Norman Richmond observed in a Toronto Globe and Mail review. George de Stefano, like other reviewers, found Ritz's presentation balanced between the brilliance of Gaye's musical talent and the darker aspects of his life. Explained de Stefano in the Nation: "Divided Soul started out in 1979 as a collaboration between Gaye and his longtime admirer. Ritz is sympathetic and loving toward the man whose friend and confidant he was for several years, but he doesn't hide Gaye's dark side, his self-absorption, his cruelties and violence. Divided Soul is often startlingly candid, but it manages to avoid lurid sensationalism, no mean feat given the particulars of the story: sex, drugs, child abuse, show-business scandal." This study of Gaye's growth from abused child to rebel to creative popular musician was widely reviewed and generally well received.

Other singers with whom Ritz has collaborated include Aretha Franklin, B.B. King, Etta James, the Neville Brothers, and Jimmy Scott. Reviewing 1999's Aretha: From These Roots for Booklist, Donna Seaman maintained that Ritz "is the perfect accompanist, allowing Franklin's speaking voice … to flow freely." Mike Tribby, in another Booklist review, praised The Brothers Neville as "a nice omnibus of information on these beloved performers." Ritz helped jazz singer Scott tell his story in Faith in Time: The Life of Jimmy Scott—the story of a man with a haunting, high singing voice caused by Kallman's Syndrome, which, as a Publishers Weekly contributor reported, "meant that his testicles never descended and his genitals never fully developed." Coming to fame during the 1940s and 1950s, Scott had been largely forgotten until he was rediscovered in the 1990s. Library Journal contributor William Kenz praised the book's balanced presentation, noting that, "refreshingly, Ritz refuses to sensationalize subjects that he could easily hype," and dubbed Scott's autobiography "intriguing and inspiring."

Ritz has also worked on the life stories of other entertainment figures besides singers. Comedian Sinbad, boxer Laila Ali, and actor Robert Guillaume have each been assisted in telling his or her life story by the author.

Guillaume: A Life, which follows the actor from television to film and the Broadway stage, "reads like a conversation with a close friend," according to Library Journal contributor Rosellen Brewer, while in Booklist Tribby maintained that, with Ritz's help, Guillaume "comes off as a serious, artful man of notable intellect."

Novels by Ritz have also been favorably reviewed; readers say their plots take some interesting turns. The Man Who Brought the Dodgers Back to Brooklyn, for example, is a fantasy in which the Dodgers return to a reconstructed Ebbets Field with a female pitcher, although the story falls just short of a fairy-tale ending. Blue Notes under a Green Felt Hat, the story of a jazz-loving hatmaker's son's vocational and romantic choices, "builds to a not-unpredictable trick ending, one [at] which he has dropped a few delectable hints along the way," wrote Leonard Feather in the Los Angeles Times Book Review.

Ritz's 1980 fiction offering, Search for Happiness, presents the problems that beset a writer of soap operas when he invents a character based on a real-life nun as a means of saving his slipping ratings. Burger King wants to erect a fast-food outlet where the nun's convent stands, and in her fight to save the convent she falls into the tempting arms of a married lawyer—an ethical problem for the real-life nun that sends her TV counterpart's ratings soaring. By the time the soap-opera character is due for some requisite misery, the actress who plays her has identified so closely with the nun that the writer hesitates to create personal problems that will again save the program's ratings. A Washington Post Book World contributor commented, "What you got here, Sweetheart, is a soap within a soap, fast, funny, and sad. Also dirty like you wouldn't believe." Los Angeles Times Book Review contributor Leslie Raddatz remarked that the writer-protagonist's "epic telling off of the network V.P. and his raffish views on such varied subjects as jogging and love are worth the price of admission."

The author has continued to write both fiction and nonfiction, including helping many coauthors present their memoirs and autobiographies. What I Know for Sure: My Story of Growing Up in America is a collaborative effort with Tavis Smiley, a radio and television talk show host. "This surprisingly thoughtful book emphasizes old-school values and the rewards of hard work," wrote Vernon Ford in Booklist. Jennifer Johnston, writing in the Library Journal, commented: "There are some fantastic stories here … and though some are controversial, all are honest and poignant."

Messengers: Portraits of African American Ministers, Evangelists, Gospel Singers, and Other Messengers of "the Word" is a "tribute to contemporary musicians, artists, and ministers who have encouraged him during his journey" toward Christianity, as noted by La Tonya Taylor in Christianity Today. A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that "both the words and images that Ritz has pulled together are inspiring." Ritz also served as editor of Elvis by the Presleys, which Booklist contributor Mike Tribby called "good, clean fun."

Fritz collaborated with musician and minister Mable John to write the novel Sanctified Blues. The story focuses on Albertina Merci, a former blues backup singer who now devotes herself to the Bible and imparting its wisdom to others. When a family crisis arises, Albertina is asked to return to her hometown of Dallas, which she does reluctantly since the place brings back many bad memories of racial prejudice. A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote that "many readers will go wild for this gospel-spouting, life-affirming story."



Black Issues Book Review, May-June, 2003, Clarence V. Reynolds, review of Faith in Time: The Life of Jimmy Scott, p. 20.

Booklist, September 1, 1999, Donna Seaman, review of Aretha: From These Roots, p. 3; September 15, 2000, Mike Tribby, review of The Brothers Neville, p. 201; September 1, 2002, Gordon Flagg, review of Faith in Time, p. 38; October 15, 2002, Mike Tribby, review of Guillaume: A Life, p. 374; April 15, 2005, Mike Tribby, review of Elvis by the Presleys, p. 1412; February 1, 2006, Vanessa Bush, review of Messengers: Portraits of African American Ministers, Evangelists, Gospel Singers, and Other Messengers of "the Word," p. 23; September 1, 2006, Vernon Ford, review of What I Know for Sure: My Story of Growing Up in America, p. 35.

Christianity Today, April, 2006, La Tonya Taylor, review of Messengers, p. 106.

Ebony, July, 2003, review of Guillaume, p. 22; June, 2006, review of Messengers, p. 28.

Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), September 21, 1985, Norman Richmond, review of Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye.

Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2006, review of Sanctified Blues, p. 429; July 15, 2006, review of What I Know for Sure, p. 717.

Library Journal, October 1, 2002, William Kenz, review of Faith in Time, p. 97; November 15, 2002, Rosellen Brewer, review of Guillaume, p. 73; September 1, 2006, Jennifer Johnston, review of What I Know for Sure, p. 157.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, October 10, 1980, Leslie Raddatz, review of Search for Happiness; August 6, 1989, Leonard Feather, review of Blue Notes under a Green Felt Hat.

Nation, October 5, 1985, George de Stefano, review of Divided Soul.

Publishers Weekly, July 29, 2002, review of Faith in Time; December 12, 2005, review of Messengers, p. 60; July 24, 2006, review of What I Know for Sure, p. 44.

Washington Post Book World, January 16, 1980, review of Search for Happiness.

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