Southern Heroes

Darius Rucker: The Music Maker

The country star turns his gaze on history with the new National Museum of African American Music in Nashville

Photo: peter frank edwards

Darius Rucker photographed near his home in Charleston, South Carolina

The National Museum of African American Music will open this year in Nashville amid the glow of neon-lit honky-tonks. But given the African roots of country music, such as the introduction of the banjo, the placement makes sense. Music City, after all, gets its moniker not from country alone, but from the history of diverse music made in town, from the Fisk Jubilee Singers to R&B along Jefferson Street to, of course, rock and roll. “There’s music everywhere in Nashville,” says Darius Rucker, who has signed on to be one of the museum’s national chairs. “When you get off the plane, you hear music.”

Rucker himself knows about playing across genres, making the leap from being the lead singer and guitarist for the multiplatinum Hootie & the Blowfish to a chart-topping country artist and the first African American with a number-one country song since Charley Pride. “It’s going to be very important,” Rucker says of the project, “when you can walk into a museum and read about what might not be in the history books.” 

Rucker has long used his platform for good, focusing most of his efforts on “what we can do for the kids,” he says. His annual Darius and Friends concert at the Ryman Auditorium, along with his golf tournament, has raised more than $2 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. He’s also proud of helping secure funds for the Medical University of South Carolina, in Charleston, where his single mother worked as a nurse for more than twenty-five years. “We live in a great country,” he says. “Seeing kids grow up with disadvantages and growing up poor and not having much…they’re trying to make their way in life. I like to help them blossom as much as I can.” 

As the National Museum of African American Music builds programming for younger generations, Rucker’s causes for children and music history will likely converge—yet another reason to sing. 


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