Darius Rucker is hopeful for the future of country music.
In recent years, the 55-year-old crooner has been outspoken about his experience in the country music industry as a Black man and the various difficulties he faced making headway in his second act despite previously striking with the band Hootie & The Blowfish.
In an op-ed published in The Tennessean, the musician recalled being a kid and having a strong admiration for Charley Pride, particularly being excited about seeing him on the country music variety show “Hee Haw.”
“It was a great thing for me,” Rucker gushed. “I was just a little kid and I was getting flak from my family for the music I listened to. Here was somebody that looked like me singing country music – that wasn’t supposed to be.”
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He then discussed how country music is an amalgamation of music from other cultures and genres.
“We took elements of all those different musical genres and made it country. The banjo originated in Africa. It came over with slaves, and now it’s one of the biggest instruments in country music,” the singer said. “Hank Williams Sr. listened to all of those blues players. I think African Americans have had a profound effect on country music.”
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Rucker made his way to Nashville about 14 years ago, he said, in hopes of making some headway in the country genre after years in the rock scene. He explained that when he would visit radio stations, he was “told that they didn’t think it was going to work because I was African American.”
“That was tough. But I was glad to get the truth, and it was what it was,” the singer reflected. “When I had three number ones in a row on my first record, I think that made people go, “Well, maybe we were wrong.”
While he’s proud of his own success in the genre, he said that he “felt even better” seeing artists like Kane Brown, Jimmie Allen and Mickey Guyton becoming household names.
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The star said that over the years, he’s learned “that you can change people’s hearts. You can change people’s minds. You can change the way people see the world, if they love you, and if they’re friends with you.”
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He added: “Country music has this stigma of rebel flags and racism, and that’s changing. I think it’s changing drastically. And I’m just glad. I hope I’m remembered as one of the people that tried to fight that, and one of the reasons that changed.”