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D'Angelo and the Vanguard: Powerful Performance of "Charade" on SNL

February 9, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


On January 31, D’Angelo and the Vanguard appeared on the Saturday Night Live TV show, singing “Charade,” a song from their recently released album, D’Angelo and the Vanguard: Black Messiah. This was a powerful performance. Members of the band wore shirts that said: “BLACK LIVES MATTER” and “I CAN’T BREATHE.” Drawn on the stage floor was the chalk outline of a body—like those that appeared when someone is shot down and killed by the police. Throughout the song and then at the end, the band raises their fists in the air. The chorus of the song echoes a sentiment felt by many in the last months of protest against police murder:

All we wanted was a chance to talk
'Stead we only got outlined in chalk
Feet have bled a million miles we’ve walked
Revealing at the end of the day, the charade

Black Messiah, D’Angelo’s first album in almost 15 years after his widely acclaimed album Voodoo in 2000, dropped on December 15, 2014. It was originally slated to come out in 2015, but D’Angelo decided to rush the album’s release because of protests over the killing of Michael Brown by Ferguson cop Darren Wilson. After the grand jury decision on November 24 not to indict Wilson, D'Angelo called his co-manager Kevin Liles and said, “Do you believe this? Do you believe it?” According to Liles, “And then we just sat there in silence. That is when I knew he wanted to say something.”

D’Angelo said, “The one way I do speak out is through music... I want to speak out.” The album notes say: “'Black Messiah' is a hell of a name for an album. It can be easily misunderstood. Many will think it’s about religion. Some will jump to the conclusion that I’m calling myself a Black Messiah. For me, the title is about all of us. It’s about the world. It’s about an idea we can aspire to. We should all aspire to be a Black Messiah.

"It’s about people rising up in Ferguson and in Egypt and in Occupy Wall Street and in every place where a community has had enough and decides to make change happen. It’s not about praising one charismatic leader but celebrating thousands of them. Not every song is politically charged (though many are), but calling this album 'Black Messiah' creates a landscape where these songs can live to the fullest. 'Black Messiah' is not one man. It’s a feeling that, collectively, we are all that leader."

One of the tracks on the album, "1,000 Deaths," begins with a soundbite from The Murder Of Fred Hampton, a 1971 documentary about the Chicago Black Panther shot dead by the police.

Another Song, "Till It’s Done (Tutu)," speaks to war and the environmental crisis:

Carbon pollution is heating up the air
Do we really know? Do we even care?
Acid rain dripping on our trees and in our hair
Clock ticking backwards on things we’ve already built
Sons and fathers die, soldier, daughters killed
Question ain’t do we have resources to rebuild
Do we have the will?

As people can see and hear when they watch the YouTube video of D’Angelo and the Vanguard’s recent performance of "Charade" on Saturday Night Live—this is a band with really great, tight music and a lot of heart and hope for a better world.

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