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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


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

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

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

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 
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.