Music News

Ex-Talking Heads frontman David Byrne apologizes for wearing blackface in 1984 video sketch

Gary Miller/FilmMagic

Former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne has taken to his social media sites to apologize for appearing in blackface in a video sketch promoting his band’s 1984 concert film Stop Making Sense that reemerged on YouTube recently.

The clip, which uses a split-screen effect, features Byrne wearing his trademark giant white suit being interviewed by a variety of characters portrayed by himself, including a woman, an elderly man and a Black man.

“I’d just about forgotten about this skit and I’m grateful that it has been brought to my attention,” the singer/songwriter writes. “To watch myself in the various characters, including black and brown face, I acknowledge it was a major mistake in judgement that showed a lack of real understanding. It’s like looking in a mirror and seeing someone else — you’re not, or were not, the person you thought you were.”

The 68-year-old Rock & Roll Hall of Famer continues, “We have huge blind spots about ourselves — well, I certainly do. I’d like to think I am beyond making mistakes like this, but clearly at the time I was not.”

He adds, “Like I say at the end of our Broadway show American Utopia ‘I need to change too’…and I believe I have changed since then. One hopes that folks have the grace and understanding to allow that someone like me, anyone really, can grow and change, and that the past can be examined with honesty and accountability.”

Worth noting, the David Byrne’s American Utopia stage show features him backed by a multi-racial, multi-cultural group of musicians, and includes a performance of Janelle Monae‘s 2015 song “Hell You Talmbout” protesting racial violence.

A filmed version of the show, directed by Spike Lee, is scheduled to premiere October 17 on HBO and HBO Max.

By Matt Friedlander
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.