D’aily 10/5/21: Shit, Damn, Motherfucker

Why are you sleeping with my woman?
Why are you sleeping with my woman?
This comes as a total surprise
I just can’t believe my eyes
My best friend and my wife
Shit
Damn
Motherfucker

“Shit, Damn, Motherfucker” might sound like the title of a song by an overzealous pre-pubescent boy trying to impress his friends with his cuss word vocabulary, but it’s far from that. “Shit, Damn, Motherfucker” is still, after 26 years, one of D’Angelo’s best songs, and one of many examples of D’s skill as a songwriter. Speaking of…

“SDM” (sorry, the title is a lot to type repeatedly) is the fifth track from D’Angelo’s 1995 debut album Brown Sugar. It was composed, written, arranged, produced, and performed by D’Angelo. I don’t know how old D was when he wrote and recorded the song, but he was 21 when the album was released. The song was also included on his 1998 album Live at the Jazz Cafe.

My Blatant Gimmick Alarm goes off when I see a song title like “Shit, Damn, Motherfucker” or anything that places a curse word in the title. I’ll see it and sarcastically remark, “Ooh, so edgy! They swore!” One listen to “SDM” and you’ll realize why the excessive swearing is necessary. The premise is simple: Man finds his wife in bed with his best friend. Shit, damn, motherfucker. Man says he’s gonna get a gun and commit a double homicide. Shit, damn, motherfucker. Man finds himself in handcuffs. Shit, damn, motherfucker. End of song. The track is straight blues with D’Angelo adding to the vibe delivering an eerily chill vocal performance to contrast the troubling sequence of events in the song. His voice barely rises above a quiet mumble even when he’s threatening to “kill both of y’alls behinds.” My friend Craig Mack would frequently observe that D sings his falsetto “motherfucker” with sweetness and sincerity.

The way I’ve always interpreted the song is that the chorus of “shit, damn, motherfucker” is when he blacks out with rage. He sees his lady and his friend and blacks out. He threatens to kill them and he blacks out again. When he comes to this time he realizes what he’s done and he’s already in handcuffs. While the 1995 studio version may not convey that, the live version from the 2000 Voodoo tour tells a different story.

“Shit, Damn, Motherfucker” live at Montreux 2000

While the cold, restrained studio version is entertaining, the unhinged 2000 live version is a more accurate interpretation of the lyrics. The song opens exactly the way it does in previous versions. The verses are still mellow compared to the rest of the song – especially the stripped down third verse, which features D’s falsetto over a bass line and finger snaps – but this time the chorus erupts in to fiery chaos. Lots of electric guitar, D’Angelo screaming, people running in all directions, and general insanity. Backup singer Jack King’s wildly entertaining and soulful “motherfuckers” and Questlove’s drumming highlight the the incredible work The Soultronics are doing on this track. The song ends when D removes one of Questlove’s cymbals from his set and emphatically spikes it on the stage. Kind of surprising that the cymbal doesn’t take an errant bounce and ironically decapitate an audience member. Shit. Damn. You know the rest.

“Shit, Damn, Motherfucker” live in Copenhagen, 2012

For his 2012 European tour D resurrected “SDM” once again with The Vanguard. This time it was a swanky, guitar heavy, painfully slow (in a good way), 6/8 blues jam. Isaiah Sharkey and Jesse Johnson put in amazing guitar work, but it’s D’Angelo on vocals once again that makes this memorable.

Same song. Same exact lyrics. Three completely different interpretations. All brilliant. I wish there was a way to get a studio quality recording of the two live versions, especially the 2012 version. I’m not sure there’s any way to accurately capture what The Soultronics were doing to that song in 2000 on tape. I hope there’s another album, another tour, and another amazing version of “Shit, Damn, Motherfucker.” Don’t let the funny name fool you. This song is a motherfucker.

Where do we go next? When I imagined writing the D’aily one of the reasons I looked forward to it was to bring recognition to some of D’s lesser known classics like “SDM.” What now? I guess we’ll find out tomorrow. Happy Tuesday, y’all.

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