The God Groove

By David Ritz

Howard Books, Atria | 2019

Reviewed by Herb Boyd

David Ritz

There is nary a rut in David Ritz’s The God Groove—A Blues Journey to Faith. Ritz’s path to the acceptance of God and a Christian baptismal is not an easy trek but it’s one eased by returning to the persons whose books he has ghosted.  Each one of them from Ray Charles to Jessie Colter gave him spiritual insights and nourishment as he struggled with his reluctance to complete this journey to faith.

Many readers who have diligently followed Ritz’s remarkable career as a ghost writer will remember some of the passages he uses to conform to his God groove.  It’s almost as if he did a search of his books to highlight where Charles, Marvin Gaye, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Little Jimmy Scott, Willie Nelson, Etta James, Mable John, et. al. addressed the subject of God, Jesus, and Christian life.

“Jesus came down to earth to get the blues,” King told Ritz. “God is the backbone of these blues we be playing.”

“God’s the timekeeper,” said Scott, who often sang behind the beat. “God’s behind the beat.”

Nelson, too, sang behind the beat, and he told Ritz he believed in reincarnation because it’s a beautiful belief. 

“So, you’ve augmented your Christianity?” Ritz asked.

“I haven’t stayed the same, if that’s what you mean,” Nelson replied. “Everyone changes.  Jesus was Perfect Man, but Jesus changed. The world changed him. That didn’t make him less perfect. Just made him human. So, the human and divine live together—least that’s how I see it.”

Interestingly, for all the time he spent with Aretha Franklin, neither God nor Jesus was mentioned and from their first meeting was even prevented from desiring to pray with her.  This, as is quite commonly known, led to rough moments between them that eventually ended badly.

Despite all the talk about God and Jesus with others, Ritz found it difficult to ascribe to the God groove, “And yet I kept listening to the people I admired most: musicians, whose voices it was my job to channel, even if I hadn’t yet fully admitted that those very voices were a conduit for a spirit whose source was divine,” he wrote.

Further complicating his journey to faith were the facts that he was a Jew, his family, his sexuality, and several addictions, including drugs and pornography.  Most unrelieved and troubling was dealing with his bullying father and cold mother, a reconciliation that took years of therapy and 12-step programs.

But writing, ghost writing was his salvation, and, as he confessed it, kept his “ego at bay.” Those books, including fiction amount to about fifty and counting because he seems inexhaustible in helping others tell their stories.  But now, in this engrossing and highly revealing memoir, he has delivered portions of his own life, which is just another beginning for a ghost who found his groove.

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