Author / Record Producer
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  Anthony Heilbut, author of The Fan Who Knew Too Much,
was born in New York on November, 22 1940, the son of
German-Jewish refugees Otto N. Heilbut (1891–1970) and
Bertha L. Heilbut (1911–2003). He graduated from Queens
College in 1961, and received his Ph.D. in English Literature
from Harvard University five years later. His thesis was on the
prose of D. H. Lawrence. He has taught at New York University
and Hunter College. Since 1976 he has been a full-time writer
and record producer.
His first book, The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times, appeared in 1971 and is still in print. CounterPunch selected it as one of the “hundred greatest works of nonfiction of the 20th century.” Other books include Exiled in Paradise (1983, 1997); Thomas Mann: Eros and Literature (1996, 1997), winner of the Randy Shilts prize for gay nonfiction; and The Fan Who Knew Too Much (2012), winner of the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award.
His work has appeared in Harper’s Magazine, The Nation, The Believer, The New Yorker, The Village Voice, The Daily Beast, The New York Times Book Review, The Los Angeles Times Book Review, Truthdig, and Dimensions, etc., as well as in literary anthologies like The New Columbia Encyclopedia (1975), Folk Music and Modern Sound (1982), America and the Germans (1983), European Writers: The Twentieth Century (1989), Black Women in America (1993), and The Encyclopedia of New York City (1995). He has lectured at The Library of Congress, The Smithsonian Institution, Harvard University, Princeton University, The Villa Aurora, and The Leo Baeck Society.


Heilbut is equally engaged in his work as a record producer special- izing in black gospel music, a vocation that realizes a fandom dating from his first trips to the Apollo Theater at the age of 14. He has pro- duced over fifty albums for various labels (Sony, Atlantic, Nashboro, John Hammond Records, Savoy, etc.), as well as a series of very successful collections of gospel, country, opera, and jazz, marketed on television. Since 1987 he has run a one-man label Spirit Feel Records (he describes himself as the president, A&R man, literary editor, and janitor) that has been distributed since its inception by Shanachie Records.
His most critically acclaimed records were made with Marion Williams, and helped lead to her winning the MacArthur Fellowship and Kennedy Center Honors in 1993. In 2003, the first studio album he produced, Precious Lord: The Gospel Songs of Thomas A. Dorsey (1973), became one of the first fifty discs of recorded sound to be included in the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry. Albums he has produced have won the Grammy Award (Mahalia Jackson’s How I Got Over ) and two Grand Prix du Disque awards (Jackson’s How I Got Over  and Marion Williams’ Prayer Changes Things ). At least ten Spirit Feel albums have received five-star reviews from Rolling Stone.
Rita Dove, former Poet Laureate of the United States, selected Marion Williams’ recording of Strong Again, a song composed by Heilbut, as one of her ten Desert Island Discs. Other songs composed or arranged by Heilbut can be seen on YouTube, performed by Aretha Franklin, Nina Hagen, Little Richard, Lou Rawls, Reverend Claude Jeter, and The Dixie Hummingbirds.
  Heilbut is particularly proud that his first song, Bad News, Bad Times, originally recorded by Marion Williams in 1972, was recorded by a South African group six years later, at the height of apartheid. Williams’ recordings produced by Heilbut have been featured in several films, most famously Fried Green Tomatoes and Mississippi Marsala; as recently as January 2020 one was included in a Netflix film directed by Tyler Perry. That same month a Spirit Feel recording of Bessie Griffin was sampled in a Beyoncé commercial.
In 2017, the remarkable Tyree Daye cited Heilbut’s song If Trouble Don’t Come Today in his poem Dirt Cakes. And in April 2020, Bruce Springsteen compiled a 20-song tribute to the victims of the coronavirus, which included Marion Williams’ Trouble So Hard — a track Heilbut composed and produced in 1990. The music lives!