Thursday, March 14, 2013

Whatever Happened to Terence Trent D'Arby?

Terence Trent D'Arby was a rising star in the late 1980s but even at the height of his commercial success he refused to conform to expectations and he did not curry favor with critics, fans or anyone else. In his Rolling Stone interview (published in the June 16, 1988 issue), D'Arby bristled at the idea of doing a conventional, bland question and answer session:

"We don't want to talk about sex, do we? Or about drugs or politics, right? We will talk about our record company, will we? In other words, we won't talk about anything that might possibly offend one person who won't go into the next Sam Goody's, or whatever store, and buy our record. So we wind up saying nothing.

I know there will be people who say 'How dare he say this,' who will want to slap me down, as if I don't have a right to speak my mind because I make records. For too long we've been fed the illusion of the rock artist as someone who only makes records--as someone who is merely an entertainer."

Abruptly a sad but obstinate look crosses D'Arby's face. "There are people who make me feel like I'm the most arrogant person to ever walk the face of the planet earth because I'm passionate. When I feel things, I feel them passionately. And, for better or worse, what makes me the artist that I am--and the artist that I want to be--is that passion.

If I let people take that way from me, I'm afraid that is going to be the mechanization of Terence Trent D'Arby. And I don't want that. I intend to resist that with everything I have."

Later in that interview, D'Arby declared, "People try to criticize artists for having an ego and arrogance. But if you want to get to the place where I want to get to, you better have some ego, mate, or you'll be crushed like a grapefruit seed. There's no way in the world you're going to be a Bob Dylan without having that insurmountable ego that tells you that you deserve to be there. There must be that insurmountable belief inside you that you deserve this attention. To be able to walk onstage in front of thousands of people, you better have an ego. Either that or you better run and hide right now." As Prince sang, "What makes a man wanna rule the world? (A double a double arrogance)."

D'Arby's debut album "Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D'Arby" sold several million copies, peaked at number four on the U.S. Billboard album chart and won a Grammy in 1988 for best male R&B vocal performance. The album's first single "If You Let Me Stay" reached 17th on the R&B chart and 68th on the Billboard Hot 100 and then the second single "Wishing Well" topped both charts:

"Dance Little Sister" made it to ninth on the R&B chart and 30th on the Hot 100, followed by "Sign Your Name," which peaked at second on the R&B chart and fourth on the Hot 100:

For the final track on the album, D'Arby covered the Motown classic "Who's Loving You":

With his catchy lyrics and raspy, soulful singing style, D'Arby seemed to be headed for stardom but instead his life took a different path. His 1989 follow-up album "Neither Fish Nor Flesh" was not a commercial success (it peaked at number 61 on the U.S. Billboard chart) and he did not release another album until 1993 ("Symphony or Damn"). He feuded with his label, Columbia Records, before eventually going to Java Records, for whom he completed one unreleased album. After INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence died, D'Arby replaced him during INXS' performance at the Opening Ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

D'Arby changed his name to Sananda Francesco Maitreya in 1995, though that did not officially become his legal name until 2001; here is an excerpt of his in depth explanation of the meaning of his new name (the spelling and punctuation are unchanged from the original text, except for the use of ellipses in place of portions of the explanation that are not quoted here):

Sananda Francesco Maitreya was born from the smouldering ashes of a former artists heart who had undergone severe trauma, lost his will and prayed devotedly to his creator to restore him to a new life. After much meditation, in 1995, at the age of 33, earth years, his prayers were answered and he was given a new consciousness. The name given to this consciousness was Sananda which means 'one who walks with light', Maitreya which means 'among the sons of God'. He presents his music as POST MILLENNIUM ROCK because he feels that it is more inclusive and representative of the vision his spirit inspires him to share...In describing his music he quotes from one of his idols, the great American Prophet and Poet Walt Whitman "Listen, I will be honest with you. I do not offer the old smooth prizes, but offer rough new prizes." His hobbies include whatever explains beauty and allows him to put more of it back into the world of wonders. 

Once upon a time, an artist, a fish, woke up to find himself in an era swimming in various kinds of music, the best of which touched him as a fish swimming in water feels everything that the water contains. He decided to take elements of all that moved him, wrap it around his vision and call it: 'POST MILLENNIUM ROCK' (PMR!)...Its purpose is to lead the listener back to the garden in their heart, to provoke the mind into seeing fresh new shapes in order to encourage fresh new visions and PMR has a preference (though no rules) for natural instrumentation played by living beings praising spirit and humanity through their chosen intruments. This particular fish heard the call of Sananda in 1995, at the age of 33. And he has been one of his voices since. He was also instructed to use the new music he would be given by Sananda not as a further barrier of separation, but as a call to community and shared values, because we are all one! 


ps: 'throwing different shapes at your mind since time'

I like Sananda Maitreya's idea of "throwing different shapes at your mind." That describes who I try to be and what I strive to accomplish as a writer, as a chess teacher and just in general. Marvin Gaye said, "An artist, if he is truly an artist, is only interested in one thing and that is to wake up the minds of men, to have mankind and womankind realize that there is something greater than what we see on the surface."

Sananda Maitreya has committed himself to that kind of awakening, so even though he is not as commercially successful now as he was when he was known as Terence Trent D'Arby, if he has found peace and contentment then no one has the right to question the path that he has chosen; he is still expressing himself creatively through his music and that is much more important than seeking validation by appeasing fickle critics or by stacking up piles of cash.


  1. I Love Sananda Maitreya, I loved him in the 80s and 90s and I love his music even more now, I respect him 100% in his life chose.Know one has to live his life but him,he is a lovely person I know, from the inside out,I've watched him from the time I was 17 years young when he released Sign Your Name, and fell in love with the hit song Wishing Well. I was over joyed when he married and had his two sons.I pray that God protects and keep him and his lovely family.I look up to Sananda Maitreya as a soul that has pushed passed critics and backwards judgment,he is still alive and doing well and I thank God that I was born in a time and season such as this, that I could enjoy him and his music.I am such a fan and I pray to God that one day I get a chance to meet him in person.I listen to his music everyday,I do not go a day without listening to him sing in that amazing Angelic voice God has Blessed him with. :-) May God continue to Bless him and his lovely family,and keep him whole and complete in Jesus name...
    Bobby Jane Singleton
    I love you Sananda Maitreya,looking forward to new releases,I speak it in Jesus name.......

  2. Wow! hmmmmm interesting. Best wishes to you Sananda Mitraya

  3. He has the best voice ever!!!


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