Are you alone today, thus rendering the ubiquitous February “Happy Valentine’s Day!” mating call a shrill and unwelcome irritant to your very soul? (Even worse, are you with someone and the same thing happens?) Or, are you midway through Black History Month and increasingly infuriated by the country’s increasingly hoods-off racism under the rule of a documented, artificially pumpkin-faced old bigot? Well, Stay Human and Stephen Colbert bandleader and New Orleans’ favorite son Jon Batiste was on the case on the Valentine’s Eve Late Show to combine love of that one special someone and love of that whole history of special someones in his ever-smooth and sexy musical odes to your favorite Black History Month Valentines.
Kicking off the cold open of Thursday’s Late Show by hawking his supposed new album, the perhaps wordy but undeniably descriptive Jon Batiste Sings Classic Valentine’s Day Black History Month Love Songs, Batiste went on to prove that wasn’t just a clever title by refocusing the country’s attention onto some remarkable black Americans whose contributions to our national identity and progress could use a little love. Especially now, when the Trump-led GOP has emboldened your most hateful little twerp of a relative to start sending you “Why can’t there be a white history month, huh? Debate me!” Facebook posts.
In Batiste’s inimitable, honey-sweet croon, “When A Man Loves A Woman” becomes a swooningly romantic query as to why, under Trump, a certain heroic, slave-liberating black woman isn’t taking a noted white slave-owning guy’s place on the $20 bill as planned. The Jackson Five’s ever-bouncy “ABC” turns out to be just right for a legendary civil rights leader (and the president who sort-of worked with him) popularly known by three initials—and the rabidly racist hate group Batiste gleefully tells to “suck it” in song. Same goes for another legendary civil rights leader and NAACP founder, whose last name turns out to work as an equally brilliant/groan-worthy fit to the chorus of Deniece Williams’ ebullient “Let’s Hear It For The Boy.” Finally, famous author James Baldwin gets his musical due, even if Batiste has to search out the Barry Manilow catalogue to find something that will scan. Regardless—sing along now—“suck it, KKK!”