I thought I saw Darius Rucker driving a silver Volvo last week. He was turning left onto the crosstown headed towards Mount Pleasant. A rockstar shouldn’t be driving a Volvo and one wasn’t because it wasn’t him.
There are two celebrity sightings here that feel distinctly Charleston: Bill Murray and Darius Rucker. Bill Murray shows up sometimes when you don’t want him to, like in your wedding photos. Darius can be seen like any other Charlestonian doing Charleston things. I like the man, I love his voice, I like some Hootie songs, and I don’t much care for his country material. Not because it is bad but because I don’t much care for any country songs that aren’t from Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, or Patsy Cline.
I do love Darius’s voice. If we ever develop artificial intelligence where we can download ourselves into carbon-robot clones, I’d like to buy the “sound like Darius Rucker when you sing” patch. That way when I am singing in the car and the satellite radio cuts out for a second, my horrible voice won’t be left hanging there like a stink-cloud wafting from PePe Le Pew’s behind.
Darius Rucker’s voice sounds like a bowl of grits. Good grits too, not that hominy shit; his voice slowly slides off a spoon.
I didn’t see Darius driving a Volvo the other day and yet I still thought that moment was special and I can’t figure out why. I like Hootie and the Blowfish. Well, I like Hootie. You can have the Blowfish. I’m sure they are fine fellows and I don’t mean to disparage them. But every time I hear my favorite Hootie song, I Go Blind, I go blind when one of the Blowfish sings the background vocals. I wish Darius performed both parts.
I should be annoyed with Darius instead of fawning over the time I thought I saw him. He breathed terrible, gut-wrenching new life into the song Wagon Wheel by covering it. I heard his version and I was so angry that I wanted to amass a flotilla and sail it over to his new house in the Bahamas, which he bought with the Wagon Wheel residuals, and demand an answer to why he would ever record that song. He would then hold his arms open to his new island paradise and say, “this is why, asshole. Now beat it!” (The music video he did for it has 218 million views on Youtube.)
After some thought I realized that Darius didn’t resuscitate that song, he killed it. He wore it out, thank the lordt. Even in Charleston, home of the “Wagon Wheel every night ‘till I die” fan club, I have noticed some eye-rolls when that song comes on. I bet I have heard Wagon Wheel (either the Old Crow, cover bands, or Darius’s version) 580,000 times since I moved to Charleston fifteen years ago. People here insist the song is about Charleston even though it is really about Raleigh, North Carolina. Still, drunkards and sweaty college girls belt that song out at Charleston bars like it is their personal anthem. At least they did before Darius sang the Wagon Wheel eulogy.
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Rock Me Mama is a track on a Bob Dylan bootleg that someone peeled off a reel to reel in the garbage outside a music studio. The song wasn’t finished and has been described as not even a song at all “but more like Dylan mumbling into a hot microphone while he stomped his foot and strummed a guitar.” I’m not sure how they could distinguish that from one of his finished songs. Then a man named Ketch Secor, whose name makes him sound like the inventor of a Wild West cure-all elixir, heard the Dylan demo and “finished” the song; turning it into what is known as Wagon Wheel. Then Darius heard his daughter’s school band play the song and he decided that he had to record it. Never has a middle school band recital done more damage. It did however lead to the song’s passage into music purgatory right next to the place God has reserved for ABBA’s Dancing Queen, if he can ever figure out how to get the damn thing off Broadway.
The essence of Charleston is hard to capture in a work of art. Nowhere is this more evident than in the various television shows and magazine articles produced about Charleston in the past few years as a result of the tourist boom. Al Roker comes here and he eats some shrimp and he trips over a cobblestone street and he thinks he has shown you Charleston. I’m not saying that they are wrong or misguided, and I am glad people like The Today Show and Travel and Leisure take an interest in my home, but I think the only way to really understand Charleston is to live here. And the only people qualified to show the rest of the world this place are the artists who live here like Darius Rucker.
Darius Rucker personifies Charleston. He made a bunch of money early in his life, retired to the marsh and the golf course for a decade or so, and then came back as something completely different and churned out even more hits. He’s part old school and part new. Not all of his songs are about Charleston but he puts a little Charleston into each one. In the Hootie and the Blowfish song I Will Wait, Darius sings the line, “Another night alone in Charleston.” I have heard that line in a train station in Denver, a casino in Vegas, an airport in Chicago, the gift shop on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, and many other places. We celebrate our artists because they package up little pieces of Charleston and send them out to the world. Every time I hear that line from I Will Wait, it is like someone popped open a vial containing a dollop of stinky pluff mud and stuck it under my nose to remind me of home.
I didn’t meet Darius Rucker or take a picture with him or even see him turning onto the crosstown. All I did was see a guy in a Volvo. But what I figured out in that moment is why we connect certain famous people to certain places. Charleston artists like Darius represent with their art this place we call home and they highlight the things that we love about it. Their art reminds us of home over and over again. I smiled when I saw a guy who I thought for a moment was Darius Rucker because art is powerful.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone. I would like to sincerely thank those who have patronized this blog. 2019 has been an incredible year for me and I couldn’t have grown or improved like I did without your support. Thank you and I hope to see you in 2020.