Darius Rucker Shares His Truth in New Memoir ‘Life’s Too Short’

Darius Rucker has shared his life through music for 30 years. Now, the Hootie & the Blowfish frontman and Grand Ole Opry member peels back the curtain to his genre-bending career with an in-depth memoir. 

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Life’s Too Short: A Memoir by Darius Rucker, available May 28 via Dey Street Books, is an honest and heartfelt look back on the three-time Grammy Award-winning singer’s life. Rucker bares all in the process as the book details personal battles with drugs, racism, and his estranged father, as well as the early years of Hootie & the Blowfish when label executives almost derailed the release of their now double-diamond-selling debut album, cracked rear view. The singer also shares the stories behind his chart-topping songs and his lifelong dream to pursue country music.

For Rucker, transparency was the only option while writing his memoir. 

“I always said when I was writing the book I was going to be honest,” Rucker tells American Songwriter backstage at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry House. “It felt like time to tell the story of my life.”

Life’s Too Short is divided into 23 chapters, with each chapter named after a song. Throughout the pages, the songs help tell the story of Rucker’s life. Frank Sinatra’s “The Lady Is a Tramp,” Al Green’s “For the Good Times,” and The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Big Poppa” are some of the tracks that shaped Rucker. These chapters also reveal memorable stories of the singer/songwriter meeting the artist behind each song at different points in his career.

“They all meant so much to me because music has been so big for me since I was a four-, five-year-old kid,” Rucker says of the songs discussed throughout his memoir. “It’s been all I wanted to do for a big part of my life. Every time a song comes up [it] brings back that memory of where I was in my life. … They all helped me bring out the memories and the good and the bad that was my life.”

One of Rucker’s earliest musical memories is when he was around six years old. He’s performing Green’s I’m Still in Love With You album for his mother and her friends in the living room of his childhood home in South Carolina. 

“As I stare at the salt shaker that fills up my small hand, my pretend mic, I know that someday, I will stand in front of a much larger audience, holding the real thing,” he writes in Life’s Too Short. “Not a salt shaker. My own hand mic. Singing. My destiny.”

While Rucker has spent a lifetime penning songs and performing for fans, he says writing a memoir is “totally different” from songwriting. 

“Songwriting, you’re writing verse, chorus, verse, maybe a bridge; but a book you’re writing your life,” he notes. “You’re telling your life story. It’s similar in the way that, when you write it, you can experience emotions. When I was writing this, having to go through all that stuff again and think about all the ups and downs and the real lows…it was lethargic, but it was also sad. Songwriting is a lot like that. But writing a book, man, that’s hard.”

Rucker says he’s unsure if writing a memoir will change how he writes songs. It may inspire new songs, though. He discusses so much of his life in the book, including many topics that he’s never written about. The singer doesn’t shy away from family struggles, his party lifestyle on the road, or the racism he faced during his time in Hootie & the Blowfish and as a solo country artist.

Raised by a single mother in Charleston, Rucker details how his father sporadically came in and out of his life. He recounts seeing his father for the first time in 15 years when Hootie & the Blowfish headlined a sold-out show at Charleston’s King Street Palace. 

“Fifteen years of no connection,” Rucker writes in his memoir. “Of nothing. My father. A stranger. He has chosen to remove me from his life. … I could shut him out, the way he has shut me out but instead, I make a decision. I’ll be the bigger man. I can’t say that I will forgive him, but I will allow him in, at least a crack. I will be—open.”

Rucker says the chapters about his father were hard to revisit. 

“I lived that my whole life,” he says. “He was never around, and I was surprised when I was reading the book how much those chapters really affected me. That was very, very medicinal to read and deal with it.”

Rucker says some portions of his life were more difficult to relive than others, including the partying. “If I’m honest—and I will be completely honest—Hootie & the Blowfish reigned supreme in two not altogether unrelated areas: selling records and doing drugs,” he writes in Chapter 1. 

“I don’t think I could have told the story unless I told it the way I did because I wouldn’t have been honest to myself,” Rucker admits. “We went hard. … I mean, that’s no surprise to anybody, a bunch of college kids who started a rock band in college and made it big. We’re not making history. I think some people that read it are surprised because Hootie had that clean-cut image of what we were, I guess, but we were just like everybody else.”

Rucker credits his ex-wife, Beth, for saving his life after a conversation two decades ago. He says in the book that he “quit cocaine and Ecstasy” and “stayed away from those drugs for twenty years” following their discussion. In February, though, Rucker made headlines after he was arrested, charged with simple possession and casual exchange, and released.

“I’m still embarrassed by it,” he admits of his run-in with the law, “at 57, the first time you get arrested for that.”

Why is there a rebel flag hanging from the statehouse walls?
Tired of hearin’ this shit ’bout heritage, not hate
Time to make the world a better place
…Oh, drowning, hating everybody else ’cause they don’t look like you
—“Drowning,” Hootie & the Blowfish

Rucker is also open about the racism he has faced his entire life—from school buses not coming to his Black neighborhood to racial slurs heard at frat parties and country radio programmers telling him they don’t know if their audience will accept him. Instead of packing up his guitar and leaving, he writes about it. 

“Now, when I write, I go deeper,” he says in Life’s Too Short. “I get reflective, and I get personal. I start putting myself, my perspective, my emotions, and even my politics into songs. And I put in my hurt. Meaning—racism. I write ‘I Don’t Understand,’ a song that talks about how I can’t go to certain places because of the color of my skin, and I write ‘Drowning,’ a purely political song dealing with race.”

Rucker says “Drowning” should have been a single for Hootie & the Blowfish. He also misses playing the song with the band every night. 

“I love it; I think it’s one of our best songs,” he says. “I remember writing that song when they still had the Confederate flag flying over the State House in South Carolina. It was a different time. When we wrote the song, we didn’t have a platform. … I wasn’t writing a song to be some big platform for us to stand up; I was just writing a song to say how I felt.”

14 years later, in October 2008, Rucker’s first country single, “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It,” reached No. 1 on the country charts. He became the first solo Black artist to have a No. 1 country song since Charley Pride’s “Night Games” in 1983. Rucker was the Country Music Association’s Best New Artist in 2009, becoming the first African American to win the trophy. He garnered nine more No. 1 country singles and four No. 1 country albums. He also had his biggest-selling single, “Wagon Wheel,” which was certified diamond by the RIAA, becoming one of only nine country songs to reach 10 million in sales.

Darius Rucker (Photo by Jim Wright)

Today, Rucker sees himself as an elder statesman in country music and a mentor to Black artists in the genre. 

“I love when those guys look at me that way or when they want to ask me something or hang out and have a drink with me,” he says. “I think of all the things that happened with me coming in 16, 17 years ago. To see the door opened for more people that look like me and getting shots… When they come in, whatever they want to talk to me [about], just like Charley [Pride] was with me, I love it and I love doing it, and I’m proud that I can.”

Rucker owes much of his career to his mother’s encouragement—so much so that he titled his latest album, Carolyn’s Boy, after her. He says his mother was a “huge influence” musically, spiritually, and mentally. 

“I realized that all this time, I hadn’t paid tribute to her the way I should have,” he admits. “This record seemed perfect. It was time.”

While his mother inspired his latest project, she also helped Rucker write Hootie & the Blowfish’s 1995 hit “Only Wanna Be With You.” As he explains in his memoir, after struggling with some of the lyrics, Rucker took a writing break to watch his beloved Miami Dolphins. 

“It’s a Sunday, fourth quarter, and the Dolphins are losing,” he recalls. “My phone rings in my dorm, and it’s Mom. I pick it up. ‘What are you doing?’ ‘Nothing.’ ‘Why are you so short with me?’ She looked at the TV and said, ‘Oh my God, you’re crying about this team again?’ That was something that stuck with me, and then when I wrote that line, I’m such a baby ’cause the Dolphins make me cry,it was a shout-out to my mom.”

These days, Rucker’s advice for writer’s block is to keep writing. “Write a bunch of crappy stuff until it breaks,” he suggests. As for his words of wisdom on songwriting? “Trust yourself.”

On Carolyn’s Boy, Rucker shared the writing room with fellow artists Ed Sheeran, Brothers Osborne’s John Osborne, HARDY, Lady A’s Charles Kelley, and Old Dominion’s Brad Tursi. 

Rucker credits “Sara,” a song he wrote about his fifth grade girlfriend with Sheeran, Joel Crouse, and Kyle Rife, to Sheeran for “asking the right questions.”

“Ed brings everything to the table,” Rucker says. “He’s a monster songwriter. That was a great experience going over there, spending the day and just writing songs. He’s such a talented guy and it was one of the coolest writes. It’s one of my favorite songs on the record.”

In Rucker’s 2010 song “In a Big Way,” he sings, Sometimes I want to be George Jones / Sometimes Charley Pride. So who does Rucker see himself as today?

“I still want to be Charley,” he says with a hearty laugh. “I’m becoming an old statesman in country music, and it’s pretty cool to be a part of this family. … I can’t believe I still get to make country music.”

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