Sheffield writer's book pays tribute to the music pioneer who coined the phrase 'Northern soul'

The man who invented the phrase ‘Northern soul’ and contributed significantly to the cultural life of Sheffield is celebrated in a new book.

Saturday, 21st November 2020, 11:00 am

Dave Godin A Northern Soul traces the life of someone who played a huge role in celebrating the soul music of the 1960s and could count legends like Marvin Gaye among his friends.

Sheffield-based writer and DJ Steve Stevlor first met Dave when he was editor of Sheffield’s Alternative Magazine (S.AM. for short) in the early 1990s and asked Dave to write a column.

“We always talked about him doing a book about his life but he never got round to it. Ten years after his death, I thought it was time to get on with it.”

Dave Godin chatting with his great friend, the soul legend Marvin Gaye

It was only later that Steve discovered that Dave had actually come up with the title Tamla Motown for Motown Records.

He also coined the phrase Northern soul to describe the faster tempo records that fans of northern club dance all-nighters were seeking out.

“In soul circles he was a very, very important figure. When I decided to write this book, I thought that he was being ignored.

“If you were lucky he got a brief mention of him but not how key he was to a scene he’d given the name to.”

Dave Godin holding a Supremes silver disc for Baby Love in his Bexleyheath bedroom-cum-Tamla Motown Appreciation Society office

Dave was only an honorary northerner, said Steve. He grew up in Bexleyheath, London and moved to Sheffield in the early 1970s to study cinema at the polytechnic before getting a job as manager of the Anvil Cinema, the council-owned arthouse that sat in the shadow of the Grosvenor Hotel in Charter Square.

Steve said he discovered while researching the book that Dave was occasionally a little economical with the truth: “He wasn’t shy of spinning the truth a bit to make a good story better.

“He said Mick Jagger and him did go to the same school – but it was not at the same time. The picture I had of Dave and Mick Jagger walking down a corridor talking about the blues wasn’t right. He didn’t meet him until after he left.

"He wasn’t afraid to bring Mick Jagger into the mix when it suited his agenda.”

David Godin at the Anvil Cinema, Sheffield

Dave, who fell in love with R&B music as a teenager in the 1950s when he heard Ruth Brown’s (Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean on the jukebox at a Bexleyheath ice cream parlour, started a Motown fan club in the 1960s.

Steve said Dave wrote to Motown boss Berry Gordy about his club and linked up the words Tamla and Motown when playing around with all the names of record labels that Gordy ran.

Starting the Tamla Motown Appreciation Society brought Dave into contact with soul legends such as Marvin Gaye, who became a lifelong friend.

“The Four Tops would give him a Christmas phone call,” said Steve. Musicians were frequent visitors to Dave in London in the 1960s.

Steve said: “He’d set up Tamla meetings in pubs in London. People locally would have no idea that this group of black American musicians walking in were Martha Reeves and the Vandellas and the Four Tops.

“He’d get the Four Tops upstairs in a pub. They built a stage out of beer crates with planks on the top and the Four Tops would stand on the stage and mime to their records.

“You wouldn’t get One Direction doing that!”

Later on, Dave also co-owned London's Soul City Record Store and record label and worked as a journalist with the magazines Blues & Soul and Black Music.

Eventually another love, of cinema, drew Dave to Sheffield and a new life in the city.

Always outspoken, Dave championed civil and animal rights and waged a lifelong battle against racism and political intolerance, said Steve.

Much to Steve's frustration, when Dave wrote his magazine column he only rarely mentioned music, preferring to tackle political topics.

In his final years Dave turned his attention to soul music once more and put together the best-selling Deep Soul Treasures compilation series for the Ace/Kent record label.

Sadly, he died in 2004 in Rotherham. The book was set to be released on the anniversary of Dave’s death on October 15 but the pandemic has meant it’s only had a soft launch, with none of the music-based events Steve had planned.

For the past eight years Steve has presented a weekly slot on Sheffield Live called The Soul Casino Radio Show.

Every year he broadcasts two Dave Godin 'The Father of Northern Soul' specials to celebrate his friend’s birthday and to commemorate his death.

He’s also been keen to put together an archive of Dave’s papers.Steve said: “Dave Godin was a natural archivist, saving and filing every letter, missive and photograph ever sent or received. His story should have been easy because all the info needed should have been there.”

However, sadly much of it had disappeared around the time of Dave’s death and occasionally Steve will spot items on music auction sites.

He has managed to get copies of some items: “I put a call out to try and track down some of the missing objects and documents, I wasn't really interested how people had actually obtained things, I appreciated a lot of stuff was purchased in good faith.”

Steve said he hopes others will come forward so that he can make copies for the archive.

Dave Godin A Northern Soul, priced £29.99, is available from Steve. Email him at [email protected] The book should also be on sale from Waterstones.

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