’80s Icon Terence Trent D’Arby: Music Biz ‘Doesn’t Like Too Many Black Faces Around At One Time’

By Sameer Rao Oct 14, 2015

“Terence Trent D’Arby”—that’s a name you probably haven’t heard in a while, if at all.

Well, that name is also a relic to him. Once a multi-platinum superstar singer whose rock-and-RnB-influenced music and boho-chic sex appeal garnered comparisons to Sam Cooke and Jimi Hendrix, the artist formerly known as Terence Trent D’Arby now uses the name “Sananda Maitreya,” lives in Italy and a has a lot to say about the way the mainstream music industry chewed him up and spit him out in the late ’80s. 

The enigmatic “Wishing Well” and “Sign Your Name” singer is the subject of a fascinating piece from The New Statesman. It’s worth a full read, but a few quotes from the mysticism-spouting artist illuminate the precarious position black musicians are often placed in by the music industry. 

On the difficulties artists face when they want to do something new, like Maitreya did when he tried to release an experimental psych-soul work in 1989’s “Neither Fish Nor Flesh”: 

The most difficult thing artists have to deal with is the crushing difference between what they know they can do with their dream being supported, and the reality they have to navigate with the business.

On the difficulty of maintaining ongoing superstardom as a black musician (taken from an earlier interview with Q Magazine): 

This industry doesn’t like too many black faces around at one time. If someone puts me on the cover of a magazine, they ain’t going to be putting another black face on the cover for a while because it wouldn’t make commercial sense and that’s the way of the world.

Elaborating on his early-career jabs at peers like Lenny Kravitz, the more-successful black rock contemporary to whom he receives many comparisons: 

At one point I thought [the music industry] would give Lenny my social security number as well. I think my greatest envy of him was that he actually did have a tremendous amount of support from his record company while I was always fucking arguing with mine.

Sananda Maitreya’s new double album, the independently-released “Rise of the Zugebrian Time Lords,” is his first stateside release in 14 years. Read the full piece on him on The New Statesman’s website