I champion singer/artists/actors/musicians who are left of center (thank you Suzanne Vega!). In the music industry they’re called “crossover” artists, artists that do not necessarily fit the usual performer/audience demographic.
I also consider myself left of center, as one of the few black kids in the town where I grew up in the 1980s, I was teased for wearing a Def Leppard t-shirt (Pyromania), and heard “Black people don’t listen to rock!” countless times by my classmates (black and white) from middle school to college, but I digress.
Think Jimi Hendrix, Beastie Boys, Eminem, Kid Rock before he went southern rock, the 60s band Love, the rock band Living Colour, Prince, Lenny Kravitz, Charlie Pride, Darius Rucker – you get the picture. Well, I’ve added The Carolina Chocolate Drops (CCD) to my champion group. They are featured briefly in the PBS fall arts festival documentary Give me the Banjo – yes the banjo. Narrated by Steve Martin, the program succintly explains the banjo’s place in american music from plantation to the Grand Ole Opry to modern folk music. Do I cringe a little when they discuss how one originator died broke, while another group sold hit records (you have to watch the program if you want specifics)? Yes, but I also value that artists like CCD truly respect and honor the soul and spirit of founding -and I mean it when I say founding- African-Americans, and play instruments. Check out Give me the Banjo and challenge your preconceived notions of roots music.