Black Artists in Country Music

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Charlie Pride did it in 1971. Darius Rucker did it in 2009. That’s it. Two black men, spanning thirty-eight years, are the only black artists to win a Country Music Association Award. With country music rooted in bluegrass and rhythm and blues, why aren’t there more black country music stars? When considering the roots of country music, and how closely related country is to blues, bluegrass and honky tonk music, an examination of what happened to all the black musicians seems warranted, no? This paper examines the dearth of black artists in country music and the careers of one of the few black artists who has had commercial success in this genre of music. As long as we’re examining race, how is the success of a white rapper such as Eminem different? Plus, Eminem didn’t have a successful career in rock, for example as Darius Rucker did. Yet, Eminem’s career has been enormously successful, and there was little discussion of how odd it was that a white man would choose to perform in this genre. Is country music a genre that has been appropriated so much by white artists that black artists abandoned the genre altogether? Darius Rucker, the former lead singer of Hootie and the Blowfish has made the transition from platinum selling pop rock artist to country singer in the past few years. On a recent episode of Oprah, Darius sat on Oprah’s couch as she declared to her audience, “Country music is the real soul music!” Rucker’s solo debut release, Learn to Live reached No. 1 and has remained on the Billboard charts for 30 weeks. The CD’s first two singles, “Don't Think I Don't Think About It" and "It Won't Be Like This For Long,” each hit No. 1, making Rucker the first male artist to get two debut singles atop the Hot Country Songs ch... ... middle of paper ... ... Bohlman, Philip V. Music and the Racial Imagination. University Of Chicago Press, Chicago. 2001. Print. “Cowboy Troy and Hick-Hop.” All Things Considered. NPR. WBUR. Boston. June 19, 2005. Radio. Tichi, Cecilia. High lonesome: the American culture of country music. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill. 1994. Print. Miller, Walter B. "Lower Glass Culture and Gang Delinquency." Crime in Society. Edited by L.D. Savitz and N. Johnston. Wiley. New York. 174-185. 1978. Sanneh, Kelefa. "Country Music? Whose Country?" The New York Times. 11 Nov. 2005. Web. 21 April 2011. Cobb, James C. Away Down South: A History of Southern Identity. Oxford University Press. 2005. Print. Lewis, George H. “Lap Dancer or Hillbilly Deluxe? The Cultural Constructions of Modern Country Music”. Journal of Popular Culture, Winter 97, Vol. 31 Issue 3, p163-173, 11p

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