One Mo’Gin: A Look Back at D’Angelo’s TV Performances

D'Angelo, Letterman, Leno

D’Angelo‘s second coming in the wake of his sublime third LP Black Messiah continues: On Tuesday, we learned that the R&B great would be playing Saturday Night Live on January 31. While this, as pretty much anything involving D’Angelo, is great news, it’s been a while since our televisions were made better by his presence. Here, then are a handful of D’Angelo’s previous TV appearances to get you refreshed and excited for his fast-approaching turn on SNL.

Late Show With David Letterman, 1995

//www.youtube.com/embed/XgCAXmVHsDw

Even seated at a piano, you could tell something set D’Angelo apart in this Letterman performance of “Brown Sugar” early in his career, and not just the song’s immaculate, wah-informed groove.

After New Years Eve, January 1, 1999
//www.youtube.com/embed/DMb8BhCXNs4

The black messiah turns a Bill Withers chestnut into a groovefest of surging organ, latin percussion, and blurting brass in this David Sanborn-assisted performance of “Use Me” on ABC’s New Years (early) morning special, originally recorded on December 14. 

The Chris Rock Show, October 8, 1999
//www.youtube.com/embed/ygCeBoYD9ps

With ?uestlove hitting the skins hard and clean, this extra-funky rendition of the then-upcoming Voodoo’s “Chicken Grease” on The Chris Rock Show hits intergalactic levels of rhythmic intensity and hypnotic stage pacing. This was actually D’Angelo’s second appearance on Rock’s show — he was a musical guest two years earlier. 

The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, March 6, 2000
//www.youtube.com/embed/08Au6Ufo0Wo

D’Angelo leads what looks like a dozen band members through a particularly electric take on “Untitled (How Does It Feel)” in this energetic performance on an episode of The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. (Side note: It was a memorable episode of Leno for more reasons than just D’Angelo’s amazing performance — one of the guests that night was President George W. Bush.) 

VH1: Men Strike Back!, April 11, 2000 
//www.youtube.com/embed/tFuc3ZmlcTE
D is certainly one of the least laughable performers you could book for VH1’s weirdly anti-diva “Men Strike Back!” concert, and his gliding falsetto and clenched fists power right through Voodoo’s “Send It On” with a straight face. Then they bring out fucking Tom Jones, who talks about his ridiculous candlelight dinner game over a few bars of “Untitled (How Does It Feel),” before D’Angelo has the band break into James Brown’s “Sex Machine.” Ride on, ride on indeed.

IMPACT

Scroll to Top