Darius Rucker deserves some credit for being the first African American to top the country music charts in 20 years and his single, “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It”, has rightly drawn a fair amount of praise and recognition for the singer. Admittedly, as modern Nashville goes it ain’t that bad. But must Rucker build his rhinestone temple atop the bones of his former band, Hootie & the Blowfish?
Reading Washington Post pop critic Josh DuLac’s recent profile on Rucker, I was surprised to find that the front man seems to hold his multi-platinum selling group’s contributions to popular culture in about the same esteem as I do– a low one. He’s put the group on hiatus and during DuLac’s profile Rucker makes several subtle attempts to distance himself from the band’s insidious pro-shop rock, dropping low key disses along the lines of the “I loved Hootie…but.”
Here he cops to the lightweight nature of the band’s music :
“We were a bar band that got lucky,” Rucker says with a shrug. “We were just in the right place at the right time with the right record. People were tired of being depressed; they wanted to be happy. We told them to ‘hold my hand’ and we sold 16 million records.” We still believe that nobody does what we do better than us. But . . . we knew we hadn’t made ‘Abbey Road.’ “
Here he explains that a life of idly strumming “I only want to be with you” to an audience of shrieking middle-aged yuppies was not all that he had dreamed:
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been this happy. I’m so ecstatic about all of this. I just want to play. I want. To. Play. After being in a band for a long time, playing the same songs, I mean, yeah, I’ll play ‘em. But it feels great to want to play again.”
Finally, Rucker acknowledges that, yes, Hootie was way uncool:
“I didn’t think anybody would give me a record deal,” he says. “Hootie had run its course. We still had great touring lives, but nobody was buying Hootie & the Blowfish records. And there’s a stigma about being in Hootie. I thought that would be a liability.”
Yeah, that isn’t exactly a smackdown, but it subtly suggests that Rucker is aware that his old band sucked and that, you know, maybe he needs a little space right now. Some of the article’s other sources were a little less gentle. For instance Capitol Nashville president Mike Dungan had this to say about The Blowfish:
“But every time I’d see those guys on TV, I thought the black guy sounded like a country singer. I couldn’t even remember his name, and I was really disinterested in those records.”
And The New York Times‘ Jon Caramanica couldn’t help but lead of his positive review of Rucker’s album with a slap at the Blowfish.
“No pop star has ever needed rescuing from his reputation more than Darius Rucker, frontman of Hootie & the Blowfish, perhaps the least consequential successful band ever.”
How about it Dean Felber, Jim Sonefeld, and Mark Bryan? Are you going to take this laying down? Defend your legacy! Sure, Cracked Rear View was some of the most odious music of the ’90s, but it was also the 15th best selling of all time! Are you going to let them push you around like NBA basketball players Alonzo Mourning, Alex English, Walt Williams, Muggsy Bogues, and Charles Smith pushed you around in your own music video?