Written by Ashley Scott
Nathan Heathman was born on January 2, 1957 in Washington D.C. He was a child prodigy in music playing various instruments like the piano, clarinet, and the saxophone. Nathan starred as 'Purlie Victorious', the lead role in the off-Broadway production of 'Purlie' and wore the hat of musical director for Marymount University's production of 'Little Shop Of Horrors.' He played in various bands in the Washington D.C. area during the 80's and wound up starting his own called "Moment's Notice" which included great musicians like Gerry Gillespie, Kevin Sims, and Eric Valentine.
One chance meeting with Jean Carne at one her concerts at a club in D.C. would change his life. When taking requests during her show Nathan asked to hear "When I Find You Love" and Ms. Carne told him that none of her band members knew the song. Nathan replied saying he did and from there a musical relationship was born that lasted about 13 years to where he was her musical director until his death. Nathan has also played with the late Phyllis Hyman, Wilbert Hart of The Delfonics, Rachelle Ferrell, Angela Bofill, Miki Howard, Bunny Sigler, Billy Paul, Dexter Wansel, Cherelle, Ali Woodson (formerly of The Temptations) and he was lead singer for Norman Connors and The Starship Orchestra.
In 2001 Nathan released his first CD of original compositions entitled "Right Here Right Now" and featured several musicians and vocalists from the Washington D.C. areas as well as Jean Carne on a remake of the Van McCoy classic "Lean On Me." The CD did very well internationally especially in the UK. Nathan's video of his single "Until We Meet Again" can be found on the DVD entitled "The Sound Of Philadelphia Live" with Jean Carne, Bunny Sigler, Billy Paul, and Dexter Wansel. Nathan also worked with and helped several established and up and coming musicians and vocalists including Shang and Marjorie Hughes with whom are featured on his CD; Sylver Logan Sharp and Cherie Mitchell of Chic; and Ashley Scott. On October 11, 2004 Nathan Heathman passed away from a heart attack in his sleep. Nathan is survived by his devoted wife and partner Ora Marie Sneed-Heatman and a host of family members, friends, and fellow musicians.
My experience, friendship, and testimony with Nathan Heathman began in 1996 during my sophomore year at Howard University. We met backstage at a show where he played with Wilbert Hart of The Delfonics with whom I was a guest of. Nathan and I got to talking and vibing on life and music. When speaking on music he told me how he played with Jean Carne and I told him I was music major and that my aunt Helen Scott is one of The Three Degrees. I sang a little bit for him and he liked my voice a lot. He then invited me to a Jean Carne show a few weeks later at Blues Alley, which is where I first witnessed his vocal skills when Jean let him sing his rendition of the Phyllis Hyman classic "Meet Me On The Moon." I was blown away at this man's skills. From there he took me into his musical family and real life family like a little brother as he saw a lot of himself in me.
Being in this family has allowed me to have a good relationship with people like Jean Carne, Shang, Marjorie Hughes, and all of "Moment's Notice." In 1998, Nathan called me to come perform at an open mic he was conducting at a small club in D.C. From that point every week for 2 years I assisted him at the open mic and honed on my vocal skills. He gave me pointers and showed me different tricks to do with the voice. There I realized that he was the most talented person I ever worked with as far as knowledge of music. He could play any song ever written and if he couldn't he could fake it well. In 2000 when I graduated from Howard with my degree I moved back to Philadelphia to start on my own career goals but I always talked to Nathan at least every other week and we would see each other if ever he was in Philadelphia or I was in D.C.
In August of 2004 I got a call from Nathan saying he was planning a weekend getaway in Dover, DE on October 17th of that year and that he wanted me to forward the e-mail to a lot of my friends as well as for me to attend. There on one of the evenings he was going to perform a tribute show to Luther Vandross. I did not make a promise to him on attending as I was planning my first trip and vacation to the UK to see The Three Degrees perform which would have been between October 6 and 17th to where it could have prevented me on going to Dover. Well it just so happened that I planned my trip after speaking with him and I was in the UK from October 6 to October 12.
While in London on Monday October 11th (which is the day Nathan passed) at 11p.m. I had the oddest experience. I was at my friends house in the UK on the internet and I thought to myself when I get home tomorrow I need to plan to go to Dover, DE to see Nathan and I went on his website to check the date. It had been awhile since we talked and I did want to go. I proceeded to check his calendar for future performances. I looked at each month from October to January and found no performance dates. If he had them they were not posted to where his calendar just looked empty. Mind you this is before the announcement of his passing. I began to be concerned and said to myself that I would call him when I got home to Philly. So when I flew into Boston I checked my cell phone messages only to get a message from a friend whose father is also a friend of Nathan's to tell me that he passed and she thought it was the same Nathan. I thought to myself that it could not be true. I then called his house from Boston only to find that it was true. At that point I lost it in the airport and had to go board my flight to Philadelphia.
Nathan's memorial service was on October 17, 2004, which is the same day as his scheduled concert in Dover, DE. I truly miss, my friend, mentor, and musical big brother and realize that his spirit came into my heart when he passed away.