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David Byrne issues apology for wearing 'blackface' in Stop Making Sense promo skit


In a recent piece in our From The Vault feature, we took a look back at one of the more bizarre bits of promo you’re ever likely to see as David Byrne interviewed himself, changing between roles and characters as he did.

It was from a rarely seen promotional skit from way back in 1984 in a bid to promote the Stop Making Sense concert film. During the footage, as the singer answers typical journalistic questions about the project, Byrne even adopts ‘blackface’ for one of the characters, something he has now addressed via his social media.

Speaking to his audience, Byrne acknowledged the racially insensitive clip and despite not really remembering the ins and outs of doing it, wanted to make sure that he addressed the issues surrounding the footage. “Recently a journalist pointed out something I did in a promo video skit in 1984 for the Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense. In the piece, I appear as a number of different characters interviewing myself, and some of the characters portrayed are people of color.

“I’d just about forgotten about this skit and I’m grateful that it has been brought to my attention,” he continued.

It is uneasy viewing in 2020 and while Byrne’s standing as a consistent ally in social injustice is a natural balance to the shock of seeing the clip in this day and age, Byrne still felt it necessary to make a formal apology. “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.”

There has been no major reaction to this video leading up to the statement so we can only assume that Byrne was keen to address the situation as soon as it was again raised to him. An admirable moment and in his statement, Byrne was keen to invite everyone to reflect on their own past. “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. 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.”

Addressing his audience he concluded, “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.”

Watch the original promo skit here.