Darius Rucker shares his thoughts on inclusiveness in country music in honest essay

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Darius Rucker is more than the sum of pop songs like “Only Wanna Be With You” – and being the band’s lead singer of the 1990s Hootie and the Blowfish.

He racked up all manner of success as a country music star who first signed with Capitol Nashville in 2008. This makes him a rare black artist in a largely white musical genre, but as he notes in a new try, that fact – along with stereotypical attitudes about country musicians and country audiences – is changing.

Day 2 – C2C Festival in Berlin (Frank Hoensch / Redferns)

“Country music has this stigma of rebellious flags and racism, and that’s changing,” he notes in The Tennessean. “I think that is changing drastically.”

He explains that as a child he listened to the records of his compatriot Black Country, Charley Pride, and “I received criticism from my family for the music I listened to.”

But legend, Pride showed him that a black artist has just as much right to sing country music as anyone else. In fact, he notes that the banjo, which is a staple in bluegrass / country music, originated in Africa. “He came with slaves, and now he’s one of the greatest instruments in country music,” he writes. “Hank Williams Sr. listened to all these blues players. I think African Americans have had a profound effect on country music.”

Hootie and the Pufferfish (Gie Knaeps / Getty Images)

Hootie and the Pufferfish (Gie Knaeps / Getty Images)

He remembers coming to Nashville 14 years ago and being told that because he was black he probably wouldn’t have much of a country career. But three consecutive No. 1 hits between 2008-09 with songs like “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It” and “Alright” proved them wrong. He was the first black country artist since Pride to reach No. 1 on the country charts – Pride last did so in 1983.

This isn’t the first time Rucker, 55, has spoken out about racism and country music. Last year on TODAY, he told Harry Smith how he had “lived with racism his whole life”, and recalled the times his music was excluded. This act only reinforced his intentions.

“When I went to radio stations and guys said to me, ‘We’re not gonna play you because you’re black’, that’s how it is.” he said TODAY. “I can’t live like this anymore. I can’t just say ‘It’s okay’ and go on with my life and let someone say something that I know they shouldn’t say.”

Rucker isn’t the only successful black artist on the country charts; Lionel Richie had several hits with his songs in the 1980s that topped the top 40, just like the Pointer Sisters. But the turn of the century saw a real renaissance of black artists entering the country field, such as Mickey guyton, Kane Brown, the Cowboy Troy, and even Lil Nas X, who had his biggest hit to date with “Old Town Road,” starring Billy ray cyrus.

Hootie & the Blowfish with Barenaked Ladies in concert - Nashville, TN (Jason Kempin / Getty Images)

Hootie & the Blowfish with Barenaked Ladies in concert – Nashville, TN (Jason Kempin / Getty Images)

“When you have such talented people, it’s important to get them represented,” Rucker writes. “And the more that happens, the more our audience will grow.”

He adds that he believes in change. “(V) you can change people’s hearts. You can change people’s minds. You can change the way people see the world, if they like you, and if they are friends with you … I hope that I will be remembered as one of the people who tried to fight this, and one of the reasons that changed. ”


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