In the mid-1990s, two major hit albums were released by relatively unknown artists. The first of those is “Cracked Rear View” by Hootie and the Blowfish, led by their lead singer Darius Rucker. Released in 1994, this album was the number one selling album of 1995 and produced several huge singles. One thing I love about Darius Rucker is that as a black singer for a genre of music that was not terribly diverse, he has been widely accepted by many sub-groups of society that might have seemed an odd fit. As a frat brother himself from the University of South Carolina (my dad’s fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon, by the way), Hootie and the Blowfish were widely embraced by frat bros across the country. Where do many frat bros assemble once they graduate? Golf courses, and Darius Rucker and all of the band have become synonymous with the PGA Tour. They often have played at tour events and parties, and he is now close friends with Tiger Woods and many other PGA tour pros. Even now, he has successfully crossed over as a successful country artist, another genre not known for its diversity. As I learned while listening more closely to this album and reading up on it, it doesn’t mean he sold out or compromised his own heritage in any way.
Musically, the band is very easy to listen to, with Rucker’s deep, smoky, baritone voice and the band’s energetic and full sound. Of the many singles that were omnipresent, I have always favored their first single, “Hold My Hand”. It is a relatively simple song of love and support, but something about the harmonies have always really appealed to me. I learned what the secret sauce was here today, as I found out that the high end on those harmonies is none other than David Crosby, the all-time master of the high harmony vocal.
“Let Her Cry” is my second favorite song, with its story-telling of sadness and struggle, and a really compelling melody. “Only Wanna Be with You” has always been a bit more of a fluff song for me, although I give him credit for not being overly emotional about ocean mammals, but rather his beloved Miami Dolphins. Trust me, if I was a Dolphin fan, I would probably want to cry a lot as well. Their fourth single, “Time”, is a slower and more contemplative song, but is a great showcase for Rucker’s voice.
The opening track, “Hannah Jane”, seems to me like it could have been another hit single, with an extremely infectious chorus. At some point, the record company probably finally felt they had squeezed all they could from this album, but this song sure sounds like a single to me and it is my favorite “new discovery”.
Remember what I said above about Rucker and his band staying true to their principles? The last single released was a song called “Drowning”, and although it opens like another aspiring pop single, it was actually a bold statement at the time against the inclusion of the Confederate flag in the state flag for South Carolina, and against racism in general. 1990s South Carolina (and America) may have been better than 1950s South Carolina, but in the upscale, white-dominated southern society where the band flourished, this song definitely ruffled some feathers and I love that they were willing to take that chance and tell the establishment of South Carolina that their reasoning here was way off-base.
“Why is there a rebel flag hanging from the state house walls, Tired of hearing this shit about heritage not hate, Time to make the world a better place”.
Fast-forward to 2022, and that state flag is long gone. We haven’t solved all of these complex problems, but we are making progress, and artists like Darius Rucker have helped, even by endearing himself and his band to a part of society who once would have openly shunned him. This week, the PGA Tour is gathered in Hilton Head, South Carolina, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Darius and/or his band are somewhere in the mix, playing for a large crowd of adoring, if not very fashionably dressed fans.
“With a little love, and some tenderness, we’ll walk upon the water, we’ll rise above the mess. With a little peace, and some harmony, we’ll take the world together, we’ll take ‘em by the hand.”