Darius Rucker’s New Memoir ‘Life’s Too Short’ Tells His Life in Song

Darius Rucker has always lived in a world filled with song. “Music has always been a part of my soul,” he declares to EBONY. “It’s the constant in my life, guiding me through every chapter and challenge and expressing emotions that sometimes you can’t find the words for otherwise. I’m so grateful to have music in my life.”

It’s only fitting that in his new book, Life’s Too Short: A Memoir, each chapter is based on a song that has had an impact on his life: “Walk on the Wild Side” by Lou Reed for meeting future Hootie & the Blowfish business manager Chris Carney in his University of South Carolina dormitory freshman year; “Ships” by Barry Manilow for revisiting his relationship with his absentee father.

Rucker’s life has been filled with major accomplishments. After 20-plus years with Hootie & Blowfish, he entered the country music genre as a solo artist and won the Best Country Solo Performance Grammy for his “Wagon Wheel” remake in 2013.

But the artist has also encountered low tides. He recounts his past struggles with drugs and alcohol within the book and how it affected his then-marriage to Beth Leonard. He is committed to staying on a healthier path. “Maintaining mental wellness is a continuous journey for anyone. I try to stay grounded through my faith and my family and friends,” he shares.

“Therapy has been a huge help and music is, of course, a major outlet for me as well. It’s about taking it one day at a time and surrounding yourself with positive influences.”

Rucker talks more with EBONY about his life journey and his take on the state of country music for Black artists.

EBONY: What were the musical genres that molded you growing up as a Black kid in South Carolina?

Darius Rucker: Growing up in South Carolina, I was surrounded by all kinds of musical influences, from gospel music in church to the R&B my older siblings and cousins were playing, and of course, country music which I fell in love with listening to the Grand Ole Opry on WSM radio.

How did your mom, a single mother, support your love of all kinds of music?

My mom encouraged me to listen to everything, never limiting me to one genre and making sure that the rest of the family left me alone when they made fun of me for playing something different. She was always singing around the house and making sure I knew it was okay to love all types of music. There’s no question that she’s the main reason I am where I am today.

Life's Too Short

Life’s Too Short
Darius Rucker

Price: $22

shop at Amazon

You revisit your absent father numerous times in the book, especially hearing him sing. How did that affect you and your music, knowing your love of music also came from a man you hardly knew?

Hearing my father sing, even though I didn’t know him well, planted a seed in me. It was bittersweet because it was a reminder of what could have been, but it also gave me a connection to him despite his absence. It was complicated, but it showed me at an early age how music can create an emotional connection

Why has it been important for you to explore themes like racism in your music, and how are you using music now to express your emotions, dreams, fears and more?

Music is a powerful tool for addressing important issues. As early as [Hootie & the Blowfish’s] Cracked Rear View, my music has always been a way to speak out on topics that are important to me, to share my experiences, to educate and to encourage conversation. Music allows me to speak my truth and connect with people who might have had similar experiences or who need to hear these messages. It’s a therapeutic process, and I would even say that my most recent album, Carolyn’s Boy, is the most vulnerable of my career.

It seems like the music industry has finally embraced Black artists as country stars, but you’ve been a successful country artist for over a decade. How has the industry evolved to accept Black artists and how far does it still need to go?

The industry has definitely made strides, but there’s still a long way to go. When I started, I was told to my face by a radio program director that their audience would never accept a Black country singer. Thankfully, the audience did embrace me and my music, and now we’re seeing so many talented artists have the opportunities they deserve. There is a focus on diversity and inclusion, which is encouraging. However, we need to continue pushing for more representation, more opportunities for Black artists and more acceptance from the broader audience. It’s about making sure everyone feels that country music is for them, no matter their background.

In your opinion, has Beyoncé’s Cowboy Carter album changed the game for upcoming Black country artists and why?

Beyoncé’s Cowboy Carter has brought a lot of attention to country music and shown that Black artists can authentically contribute to the genre. Her influence and platform have helped spotlight the richness and variety that country music has to offer. It’s an important step in challenging stereotypes and expanding the genre’s reach and acceptance.

As the first solo Black artist to have a number-one country music record since Charley Pride and the recipient of numerous country awards, how do you want your country legacy to be defined?

I hope my legacy is about taking the door that Charley Pride cracked open for me and pushing it open wider for others. I hope to be remembered as someone who stayed true to his roots, brought sincerity and passion to country music, and helped other people along the way. It’s about leaving a lasting impact that goes beyond just the music.

What would be your title in the country realm, akin to Michael Jackson’s “King of Pop” or Aretha Franklin’s “Queen of Soul?”

I’ve never really thought about having a title, but if I had to choose, maybe something like the “Bridge Builder of Country.” I’ve always seen myself as someone who’s trying to build connections–between different musical genres, between people from different backgrounds and between the past and the future of country music. It’s about bringing people together through the power of song.

Life’s Too Short: A Memoir is available on Amazon.

Updated: May 28, 2024 — 6:02 pm