A friend introduced me to soul singer Donnie’s album The Colored Section (TCS) while in college and changed my world! I had just started my sophomore year at the University of North Texas. This album would become a major part of the soundtrack of my college years.
Recently I spent one gloomy Saturday stuck inside interviewing the wonderfully insightful Donnie. I was nervous, breaking out into a sweat like a whore in church as our 12pm phone call approached. I put the AC on high and sat in front of a box fan. I could not believe I was speaking to the creative force behind one of the best soul albums of the 2000’s. It can stand on its own feet next to albums by Stevie Wonder, his cousin Marvin Gaye and many other soul greats.
Donnie is returning to New York City June 28 to perform at the Highline Ballroom. It has been over ten years since he has held a concert in the city. In anticipation of his upcoming show I wanted to know what this great singer has planned for his fans, how life is going for him and his thoughts on the world.
Donnie is an artist that has so much empathy for people. “I love us and I want us to be better.” But lately the events like the Philando Castille verdict and London apartment building fire have darkened his mood. “I’m angry. I’m upset at what’s happening around us.”
Listening to Donnie speak its clear that a general apathy towards life and those around us is creating a world where we don’t know each other. “We don’t care like we used too especially with new technology.” Indeed Donnie is right. I felt like he was calling me out though I’m sure he didn’t know. Personally I love non-verbal forms of communication yet my voice is one of my greatest assets. My motto is email me, text me and as a last option call me.
This change in society has affected the 40-something soul singer. “I’m in my 40’s but I don‘t care like I used too…..I’m not the same.” He went on to say, “I don’t feel this world wants to be loved or saved.”
Present throughout our conversation was his faith. Donnie was raised in the same Pentecostal church as Gaye. The experiences both men had no doubt shaped their music, sound and personal lives.
Indeed it is a soul-stirring experience listening to Donnie. His voice is rich, deep, hitting high notes. The music serves as a cushion to bolster his melodic voice. I dance with joy listening to Donnie. I also want to shout to God. I too grew up as church kid. I can say with no doubt Donnie’s music was influenced by the spirituals he heard in the black church.
TCS remains one of my favorite soul albums. No matter my mood, I can always listen to Donnie. But the album’s greatness put intense pressure on the musical genius Donnie. “I made an album so you could hear me…….and as time went on I just found out who people were.”
Living life after TCS, made Donnie have a strange relationship with people. “I don’t feel closeness to anyone.” Indeed success does change those around us.
“I was hungry for people to hear what I had to say,” says Donnie about TCS. A look at the lyrics proves why his powerful message still resonates with fans over ten-years later. “Beautiful Me” is one of my favorite songs from the album.
“I was born in the winter
The day after the tenth
And it’s hard to deliver
Scorpio energy so intense
Make me wanna holler
Now I know what Marvin meant
The industry’s so cold
Give me the things to my ancestor’s you owe, so.”
Heavy, hard-hitting lyrics proliferate TCS so deeply. It’s an album of Black pride, consciousness, love for self and those around us. Having listened to this album too many time to count, I wonder am I emotionally ready for a Donnie show?
“When I was younger it used to be about the stage and performance.” Says Donnie reminiscing about his entrance into the national music scene in 2002. “When I was younger it used to be about the stage and performance.” Says Donnie reminiscing about his entrance into the national music scene in 2002. Click To Tweet “Now its about the music.” Donnie is working with a playwright to bring his album/movement The American Mythology to the stage. He is at the point in his career where he wants to create for others. “I want to write for others to perform my work.”
Though still hurt by the past, Donnie is happy about the “Black Panther” trailer. We discussed at length the imagery of the film and the backlash some have about the strong Afro-centric theme. “I am so thankful for Stan Lee,” exclaims Donnie. The trailer makes him want to shout for joy, a reference to his church upbringing.
Donnie says “I will still give my heart and soul on stage but I’m not going to kill myself.” If more of our legends felt this way, how many would still be here.
The incredible singer performs June 28th at the Highline Ballroom. Purchase your tickets here. Donnie says the show will be a mixture of old and new from all three albums. TCS is his most recognizable album so it surprises him when fans know songs from The Daily News or The American Mythology.
“I’m proud of me and The Colored Section.” Donnie says his album has helped so many people. One couple saved their marriage after listening to the album. The album stopped another person from committing suicide. “Those stories make life worth living for me.”
Donnie still ask, “But who is checking on me?”
The recent deaths of musicians like Prince and Michael Jackson show the price they paid for their musical genius. It takes a toll on their mind, bodies and spirits. As fans we appreciate their music and celebrate them, but we must also be praying for our legends too. Donnie needs our prayers as he embarks on new creative endeavors.
I’m praying for and with Donnie for a better world with better people. If you are in NYC or Philly get tickets to see Donnie! Your soul, mind and body will thank you later.