Jonathan Butler: Jazz, Drugs and Jesus

If you love jazz, then Jonathan Butler's guitar is a familiar sound. What you may not know is that the trappings of fame almost ended his life until a fan showed him a new way to live.


MUSIC CLIP FULL VO 1: JONATHAN BUTLER TOURS WITH CONTEMPORARY JAZZ GREATS LIKE DAVE KOZ AND PATTI AUSTIN… A FAR CRY FROM HIS FORMATIVE YEARS IN SOUTH AFRICA… We grew up very poor. There were days that we would either live on potatoes for a week—you know that’s a luxury. We got used to asking for food next door. I just wanted to help my mother and father so we could eat. VO 2: JONATHAN BUTLER FOUND OUT EARLY... HIS GIFT FOR MUSIC WAS THE WAY HE COULD HELP. My first performance was probably six years old and I’m singing Tom Jones “My, My Delilah” I’d fall on my knees and people chuck a whole lot of money. It’s customary in Africa if people like your singing or whatever, they throw money on the stage, so I knew that was my destiny. VO 3: JONATHAN BUTLER’S “DESTINY” ARRIVED EVEN BEFORE HE WAS A TEENAGER. WHEN HE WAS 12 YEARS OLD HE WAS SIGNED TO A RECORDING CONTRACT. I was signed to Zomba in South Africa when I was 12 years old. SCOTT: 12? 12 yeah and I had my first hit record, it was a Burt Bacharach song called “Please Stay” and it went to number 2 in the pop chart so I became the first black person to be played on the white radio in South Africa. SCOTT: IS THAT RIGHT? BURT BACHARACH. Yeah and you know the popularity and the fame spread so fast. This is “Please Stay.” Remember the one I told you about? OH YEAH “PLEASE STAY” “Please Stay” Burt Bacharach. BURT BACHARACH When I was 12, 13. VO 4: JONATHAN’S EARLY FAME ONLY LEFT HIM EMPTY. Nobody loved me. You know they loved the fact that I made them money you know. It was good for my family to see me give them money after I’d do a concert, but me, Jonathan had great need—love, attention. VO 5: JONATHAN TURNED TO DRUGS TO COPE. I was a drug addict at 15. I started at 14 years old. SCOTT: HARD DRUGS? Yeah, by the time I was 18, I didn’t do needles and stuff like that but I was definitely gone. I was on another level with drugs, smoking marijuana 24 hours a day. I didn’t like food. I just drank coffee and got high that was it and played my guitar 10 hours a day. I didn’t leave my house, I didn’t leave my room. Nat full of Jonathan playing guitar VO 6: ONE DAY THE PHONE RANG… AND JONATHAN’S LIFE CHANGED FOREVER. He called me one day and said I’m your number one fan. Jesus loves you, he died for you. John 3:16 the whole bit. SCOTT: YOU’D NEVER HEARD THAT? I’d never heard that, never met him. He said look I found your number through a friend of mine. I’ve been a fan of yours since I was 12 years old. Jesus died for you. Can I come and speak to you about him? And this young man pursued me, I mean really pursued me and I finally met with him and we talked and I was still being very you know angry about it. Man don’t talk to me about angels with blond hair and blue eyes, come on man, VO 7: JONATHAN GREW UP IN AN ERA WHEN “APARTHEID” VIOLENTLY SEPARATED BLACKS FROM WHITES IN SOUTH AFRICA. SINCE JONATHAN “SAW” JESUS AS A “WHITE MAN”… SALVATION WAS A HARD CONCEPT FOR HIM TO SWALLOW. I had such an anger toward the system and I didn’t want to serve a Jesus that had blond hair, on the streets where people were being killed. I had such a very warped view. VO 8: JONATHAN’S “FAN” SIMPLY WOULD NOT GIVE UP. He invited me to a coffee bar, a youth meeting and there were young people my age, 18 years old talking about Jesus. In this meeting this lady preached on suicide and I realized I was on that mission. You know and I gave my heart to Christ that night. I said listen, how can I receive Christ? So you know they led me through a prayer, Romans 10:10 and showed me a completely different face of Christ and what the love of God is all about. I got delivered that night from drugs, from anger, from depression. SCOTT: INSTANTANEOUSLY? Instantaneously. OH COME ON, THAT TAKES TIME, DOESN’T IT? That takes time but it was instantaneous. I woke up the next morning with a hunger to eat because I could smell again. Falling in love with Jesus was the best thing I’ve ever done. VO 9: JONATHAN NOT ONLY ACCEPTED JESUS… MORE THAN TWENTY YEARS AGO… HE MARRIED THE SISTER OF THE FAN WHO LED HIM TO CHRIST. HE RECENTLY CUT HIS FIRST GOSPEL C-D… AND CONTINUALLY WORKS TO SHOW CHRIST TO THE SECULAR JAZZ WORLD. God has placed me in an environment to be a witness to all these people and I don’t need to Bible-bash them… “Man you’re going to hell if you light that cigarette.” You know. God has given me the grace and the capacity to love. That’s what I lacked when I was growing up. You can influence people and make them see the Christ in you. Give Jesus a chance. Give Christ a chance. I mean you have really nothing to lose and really everything to gain by giving Christ a chance.


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