“D’Angelo. Chris Tucker. Dave Chappelle. Lauryn Hill. They all hang out on the same island. The island of What Do We Do with All This Talent? It frustrates me.”
That’s a comment from Chris Rock in a fascinating new GQ profile of neo-soul singer D’Angelo, who is in the midst of mounting a comeback after more than a decade away from the spotlight.
Based on the article — D’Angelo’s first high-profile interview in 12 years — Rock’s frustrations, at least in regard to D’Angelo, should be subsiding.
In the words of writer Amy Wallace, his performance earlier this year in Paris, part of his comeback-launching European tour, generated “the most soulful, palpable connection I’ve ever felt between an artist and an audience.”
While tracing his path from son of a Pentecostal preacher man to mega-music star/sex symbol to broken addict to rebounding artist, Wallace reveals some fascinating tidbits about her subject. Some key ones involve D’Angelo’s Marvin Gaye dreams, his rejection of Madonna’s advances and his conversation with longtime friend and collaborator Questlove following Amy Winehouse’s death.
— While growing up in Richmond, D’Angelo was drawn to the music of Marvin Gaye, a man in whose soulful footsteps the “Untitled” crooner would eventually follow. After Gaye was shot and killed by his father in 1984, the GQ story says, the then-8-year-old known as Michael Archer began to have black-and-white dreams about a young Gaye meeting him at Motown’s Hitsville U.S.A. and shaking his hand. The dreams freaked him out so much, the story says, that he had to go to a therapist. They finally stopped when D’Angelo was 19 and had gotten signed to his first record contract.
In the last one, D’Angelo says, Gaye “got into this whirlpool Jacuzzi with his wife and his daughter and his little son, and that's when he turns around and looks at me. And he goes, ‘I know you’re wondering why you keep dreaming about me.’ And I woke up.”
— Once D’Angelo’s star started to rise, he began to attract attention from all sorts of famous musicians, including Madonna. After singing to her at her request during her 39th birthday party, D’Angelo “rebuffed her advances at another gathering not long after,” the article says. “At that event, the sources say, Madonna walked over and told a woman sitting next to D, ‘I think you’re in my seat.’ The woman got up. Madonna sat down and told him, ‘I’d like to know what you're thinking.’ To which D replied, ‘I’m thinking you’re rude.’ ”
— And then there’s that Questlove conversation. Years after D’Angelo nearly killed himself in a car accident, got arrested a couple of times and finally sobered up and started on the slow path to getting his life back in order, the Roots drummer called him to talk after Winehouse’s death.
“I just said plain and simple, 'Man, there was a period in which it seemed like you were hell-bent on following the footsteps of our idols, and the one thing you have yet to follow them in was death,’ ” Questlove told his friend. “That was probably the most emotional man-to-man talk that D and I ever had,” he added.
If you’ve ever been a D’Angelo fan, or if you simply enjoy well-reported and well-written celebrity profiles, you really should read the whole thing.