Darius Rucker talks racism in country music: 'Not going to compromise' for 'someone's hatred'

David Oliver

Corrections & clarifications: An earlier version of this story misidentified how to access Rissi Palmer’s radio show. 

Music superstar Darius Rucker recently opened up about racism in country music on fellow country artist Rissi Palmer's radio show, "Color Me Country."

The Hootie and the Blowfish singer talked about growing up in Charleston, South Carolina, and learned that when he saw racism, he was just told that's the way it is.

But his viewpoints have since evolved. "I'm not going to compromise my life and career for someone's hatred," he said on the radio show, which aired Sunday.

Rucker expanded with Palmer on comments he made earlier this summer to the "Today" show. "One sentence can end your career in country music," he said earlier this summer, referencing the Dixie Chicks (now The Chicks) speaking out against former President George W. Bush. He said that racism doesn't go away just because he's a rich Black man.

And he made that clear on social media this past summer.

Rucker posted on Instagram after the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck, igniting a new wave of protests and a national reckoning on race.

"It is no longer alright for me to perpetuate the myth that things are okay," he wrote at the time.

Darius Rucker of Hootie & the Blowfish performs onstage during Hootie & the Blowfish at The Troubadour on November 4, 2019 in Los Angeles.

Now, Rucker is hosting the CMA Awards with Reba McEntire on Wednesday and will present the Lifetime Achievement Award to country artist Charley Pride, whom it calls "the genre's first Black superstar." Rucker said he listened to Pride since he was a kid. 

Upon arriving in Nashville, "I remember saying to myself you can put up with whatever happens here, because whatever happens to you is not gonna be one-tenth, one one-hundredth of what Charley Pride went through," Rucker said. Rucker wanted people to play his music for his music, and wasn't thinking about being a Black country singer. People would tell him that they wouldn't think radio audiences would accept a Black country singer, he said.

Despite Black artists' movement in country music, racism persists. And while Pride indeed is a groundbreaking artists, Rucker and Palmer discussed the history of Black country artists people don't talk about, like country artist Lesley Riddle who worked with The Carter Family.

"The doors aren't kicked open but the doors are open now," Rucker said about the current moment in music. He called Kane Brown "a freakin' superstar" and said that if he went on tour with Brown he'd have to open for him.

Brown, who is biracial, said in 2018 that some songwriters in Nashville wouldn't write with him because he's black.

“Damn, some people in Nashville who have pub(lishing) deals won’t write with me because I’m black,” he wrote. “Aight ….. I’m still gonna do my thing 100 (percent).”

The tweet was later deleted.

Contributing: Cindy Watts, The Tennessean

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