D’Angelo’s Age of “Soulquarius” – Part Two

A deeper thread is unraveled when an Aquarius is a Black man. “The key definition, I believe, of being African American…is tied into anti-Blackness,” astrologer Samuel Reynolds explained. “So, an Aquarian Black man is going to be immensely sensitive to how he both functions on that perimeter and also be attentive to others who function in that throwaway space, in those spaces where they’re not visible or heard.”  On Voodoo, D’Angelo touched on those exact themes with cuts like “Devil’s Pie,” “Africa,” and “Greatdayindamornin’.” He embraced masculinity without being poisoned…

D’Angelo’s Age of “Soulquarius” – Part One

Some people dismiss astrology—the analysis of personality and human behavior based on the “sun sign” under which a person is born. But in the late 1990s, a group of striving, nonconforming musicians came together to share ideas and push each other to higher heights. Christened the Soulquarians, this unofficial collective bore enduring music as its fruit, including D’Angelo’s Voodoo, of which I wrote about for the “33 1/3” series. The Soulquarians were formed by D’Angelo, drummer/co-songwriter Ahmir Thompson— better known as Questlove—and other consummate Black male artists delivered under the…

Voodoo: Live from New York

Faith Pennick, author of D’Angelo’s Voodoo, on seeing D’Angelo perform for the first time. Live performances are like power outlets to me. I can plug in and share that surge of electricity the band or singer brings song after song. I had never seen D’Angelo on stage prior to the Voodoo tour.  A good friend in Brooklyn invited me to see him at Radio City Music Hall in March 2000. I was curious about what D’Angelo would be like in concert, and how songs from his just-released album would resonate in…

Catching the Spirit

Faith Pennick, author of D’Angelo’s Voodoo, on how gospel music inspired D’Angelo’s critical acclaim. Like many African American singers who hail from the South, D’Angelo’s foundation is laid in gospel music. Much has been said and written about his R&B influences: artists like Marvin Gaye, Sly and the Family Stone, and his North Star: Prince. But without gospel music, D’Angelo simply would not be D’Angelo. As a child, Michael Archer sang and played keyboards in his father’s and grandfather’s churches in and near his hometown of Richmond, Virginia. He contemplated staying…

Rest in power Aretha Franklin

Today we celebrate the legacy of Aretha Franklin, one of the most remarkable musicians of our time, and one of the most powerful voices of all time. We lift our glasses to the Queen of Soul, and share with you this excerpt from Aretha Franklin’s Amazing Grace, wherein Aaron Cohen discusses Frankin’s unique marriage musical influences. I suppose the [Black] Revolution influenced me a great deal, but I must say that mine was a very personal evolution — an evolution of the me in myself. But then I suppose that the…