Please join the Albumism team in celebrating D’Angelo’s musical legacy and share your personal memories of him with us in the comments below!
Born: February 11, 1974
Biography: D'Angelo was one of the founders and leading lights of the neo-soul movement of the mid- to late '90s, which aimed to bring the organic flavor of classic R&B back to the hip-hop age. Modeling himself on the likes of Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Prince, Curtis Mayfield, and Al Green, D'Angelo's influences didn't just come across in his vocal style -- like most of those artists, he wrote his own material, and frequently produced it as well, helping to revive the concept of the R&B auteur. His debut album, Brown Sugar, gradually earned him an audience so devoted that the follow-up, Voodoo, debuted at number one despite a five-year wait in between. The wait for his third album -- at one point tentatively titled James River -- was much longer.
Michael D'Angelo Archer was born February 11, 1974, in Richmond, Virginia, the son of a Pentecostal minister. He began teaching himself piano as a very young child, and at age 18 he won the amateur talent competition at Harlem's Apollo Theater three weeks in a row. He was briefly a member of a hip-hop group called I.D.U. and signed a publishing deal with EMI in 1991. His first major success came in 1994 as the co-writer and co-producer of the Top Five R&B single "U Will Know" on the Jason's Lyric soundtrack; it featured a one-time all-star R&B aggregate dubbed Black Men United. That helped lead to his debut solo album, Brown Sugar, released in July 1995. Helped by the title track, also a Top Five R&B single, a cover of Smokey Robinson and Marv Tarplin's "Cruisin'" (number ten R&B), and "Lady" (number two R&B), Brown Sugar caught on with R&B fans looking for an alternative to the hip-hop soul dominating the urban contemporary landscape.
Along with artists like Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Maxwell, and collaborator Angie Stone, D'Angelo became part of a retro-leaning, neo-soul revivalist movement. Brown Sugar received enormously complimentary reviews and sold over two million copies, and D'Angelo supported it with extensive touring over the next two years. [Read more via AllMusic here]