It's completely embarrassing to admit that up until now, I've know nothing about Rhiannon Giddens and her music. At the same time, it's just another crucial reminder that the opportunity to learn is ever-present, even if we abstain from it or miss the chance the first time around.
'White people are so fragile, bless 'em' … meet Rhiannon Giddens, banjo warrior, by Emma John (The Guardian)
She pours fire and fury into powerful songs that target everything from police shootings to slavery. The musician reveals all about her mission to put the black back into bluegrass – and Shakespeare
‘We’re all racist to some degree,” says Rhiannon Giddens. “Just like we’re all privileged to some degree. I have privilege in my system because I’m light-skinned. I hear people say, ‘I didn’t have it easy growing up either.’ But when did it become a competition?”
As someone on a mission to bridge such divides, Giddens thinks about this stuff a lot. The Grammy-winning singer and songwriter was born to a white father and a black mother in Greensboro, North Carolina, in the late 1970s. Her parents married only three years after the landmark Loving v Virginia decision, which reversed the anti-miscegenation laws that had made interracial marriage illegal. Their union was still shocking enough that her father was disinherited.
While much has changed in the 40 years that Giddens has been alive, her latest album, Freedom Highway, is a powerful testament to the inequality and injustice that remain. It opens with At the Purchaser’s Option, a devastating track inspired by an 1830s advert for a female slave whose nine-month-old baby could also be included in the sale. “It was kind of a statement to put that one first,” says Giddens. “If you can get past that, you’ll probably survive the rest ...”