Rhiannon Giddens is an American musician, considered in some quarters as something of a maestro because of her ability with the banjo and the violin. While her talent for musical instruments has brought her fame and recognition, Rhiannon is an equally accomplished vocalist. Let’s take a look at her family, career, and adventure with the Grammy-winning group Carolina Chocolate Drops.
Rhiannon Giddens’ Biography
Born a native of Greensboro, California on February 21, 1977, Giddens is the daughter of Deborah A. Jamieson and David Giddens. Her father is white while her mother is African American. Giddens has another sibling, a sister named Lalenja Harrington. Though she has made a mark in entertainment, it was not always like this, growing up, she was considered nerdy by some folks. She attended the North Carolina School of Science and Technology.
The different genres associated with her works include gospel, soul, jazz, country, old-time music, folk amongst others. She attended the Black Banjo Then and Now gathering in North Carolina in 2005 where she met the pair of Sule Greg Wilson and Dom Flemons. Not long after, the band known as the Sankofa Strings was born.
While she played with these folks on this side, Rhiannon Giddens also kept busy as a regular at local contra dances, this was done alongside a music band known as Gaelwynd which soon came together in a merge with Sankofa Strings with the help of Giddens and Flemons and formed what would turn out to be a hit band, Carolina Chocolate Drops.
The new band specialized in blues, old-time music and country, they went on to become a Grammy award-winning group but as the years went by it dissolved gradually.
In 2009, Rhiannon Giddens and her friend Cheryse McLeod Lewis dropped the single Because I Knew by the name, going by the name Eleganza. By the year 2013, Giddens began to pursue the vision of going into a solo career. She produced what many onlookers tagged the best performance during “Another Day, Another Time” – a concert inspired by the film Inside Llewyn Davis. Giddens’ protest song was contributed to support the NC NAACP and the Moral Monday movement.
Her debut solo album came in 2015 when she released Tomorrow Is My Turn on Nonesuch Records. The album garnered some impressive reviews for its artistic brilliance. Giddens went on to receive various awards, deliver keynote speeches and kept up the good work of creating more beautiful music as the years rolled by.
Aside from her musical career, Giddens has also ventured into acting with decent success. She appeared in two consecutive seasons of CMT’s Nashville as she played Hannah Lee “Halle” Jordan. On the series, she has gone on to perform several songs as well.
Giddens has been married since 2007. She tied the knot with Irish musician Michael Laffan. Their union was blessed with two kids, a daughter, Aoife, and a son, Caoimhin but the two are separated now. The parents of Giddens are Deborah A. Jamieson and David Giddens who are from very different backgrounds giving Giddens a multiracial ancestry with roots to white, Native American and African-American origins.
Other Important Facts About Rhiannon Giddens
Giddens began to sing at a very early age. In an interview, her parents both said that to their utter amazement, she was just about 2 years she began singing without prompting.
Giddens studied Opera at Oberlin Conservatory and graduated in 2000.
When she won the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass in 2016, she did so as the first person of color and the first woman to win the award.
Giddens was the first American to be honored as Folk Singer of the Year at the BBC Radio2 Folk Awards.
The North Carolina Music Hall of Fame inducted the Carolina Chocolate Drops into the fold.
When the 2017 class of MacArthur “Genius” Fellows was named, Giddens was part of it.
Her second solo album, Freedom Highway was released in 2017.
Giddens found herself as the only female writer on Bob Dylan’s New Basement Tapes.
The parents of Giddens have been divorced for a long time
The Grammy won by the Carolina Chocolate Drops was for Best Traditional Folk Album; she was nominated twice before.