Singer, guitarist and songwriter Jonathan Butler has charmed, inspired and uplifted audiences worldwide for three decades.
He is still a major force in R&B, soul, jazz and gospel music.
Butler is currently a co-star on the coast to coast Dave Koz & Friends Christmas Tour, which includes Koz, a popular smooth jazz saxophonist, singer Oleta Adams and keyboardist Keiko Matsui.
As Butler participates in the Koz tour, he is also promoting his latest album, “Merry Christmas to You.”
Butler wrote, produced and played most of the instruments on “Merry Christmas to You,” and channels his pristine, spiritually-impassioned vocal style and acoustic guitar into eight holiday classics and two new songs.
“It’s a very proud moment for me to finally have a Christmas record, which has been a long time coming,” Butler said. “I hope fans feel blessed and uplifted when they play it at home or in their car or wherever they may be. I truly thank God for giving me the strength and the opportunity to make this album.”
With intentionally limited production, the project has an intimate and warm vibe on Christmas standards, the vintage rarity “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” and Butler’s originals, “Happy Holidays” and the title track, a retro-flavored R&B/adult contemporary ballad.
Special guests include the high-profile horn men Dave Koz, Rick Braun and Paul “Shilts” Weimer, as well as Butler’s daughter, vocalist Jodie Butler, and bassist Dan Lutz.
Butler, born the youngest of 17 children in South Africa, grew up under the country’s rigid apartheid system.
His love of music rescued him from drugs and extreme poverty, and he became South Africa’s first Black artist played on white radio stations when he released his first album at age 13.
After performing with the popular jazz/rock group Pacific Express in the 1970s, Butler moved to the United Kingdom, where he became an international success, attracting attention in the United States in the late 1980s with songs such as “Lies,” “If You’re Ready Come Go With Me” and “Sara Sara.”
Butler has maintained a loyal following in South Africa, the United States and Europe.
In 2006, Butler was a featured vocalist on the album “Gospel Goes Classical,” which 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.”
Also in 2008, Butler guest-starred on George Duke’s album “Dukey Treats,” alongside the late Teena Marie on the track “Sudan,” addressing the disasters of Darfur.
Remembering his early struggles with poverty and addiction, he formed the Jonathan Butler Foundation in South Africa to fund and support music education programs that give children the purpose needed to overcome a life of drugs and poverty.
Butler said he will soon form a U. S. affiliate of the foundation to support music and arts programs for children ages 4 to 17.
“The foundation is about building new legacies and I’ve wanted to help the children in my native land fulfill their dreams. These are free-born children and it is about their legacies and saving them from drugs and poverty.”