New York Times pop music critic Jon Caramanica wrote a profile today of the (in)famous South Carolina ’90s roots rockers Hootie & the Blowfish, in honor of the 25th anniversary of the band’s then-inescapable 1994 album Cracked Rear View. The piece also serves as a bold critical re-evaluation of a band whose broad, feel-good anthems—designed to make frat parties full of Dockers-clad pledges wave their red Solo cups in the air—made them something of an aberration in a decade defined by grunge, hip-hop, and eventually, nu-metal.
Although the band was regarded as a punchline by fans of harder and more outwardly subversive musicians, and never embraced by critics, Cracked Rear View was, as Caramanica writes, “one of the defining albums of the 1990s, spawning three indelible, sublime Top 10 hits: ‘Hold My Hand,’ ‘Let Her Cry’ and ‘Only Wanna Be With You.’ It’s is the 10th most successful album of all time in this country according to Recording Industry Association of America certification.”
Still, frontman Darius Rucker takes issue with the fact that Hootie’s impact has seemingly been quietly erased from rock history. This feeling most hit home, Rucker says, when he watched an episode of CNN’s docuseries The Nineties, on which Tom Hanks served as an executive producer.
“How the [expletive] can you do a show about ’90s music and not mention Cracked?” Rucker told the Times. He added: “[Expletive] Tom Hanks!” The Times, per tradition, omitted the curses in question here, but we’re just gonna go ahead and assume he said “Fuck Tom Hanks.” (In fairness to Hanks, he is but one of several executive producers, and 19 producers overall, attached to the series per its IMDB page.
Later in the profile, Rucker discusses how “Hold My Hand,” the band’s seemingly feel good breakout single, is actually a rebuke of racism. According to the frontman, the single is “a protest song” which was “always about racism.” Rucker recounted instances where he was on the receiving end of racial slurs at frat parties, including an incident at a University of Tennessee where a white student praised the band’s performance before saying something bigoted about Rucker. “He just said that right in front of me,” Rucker said. Hootie drummer Jim Sonefeld added that seeing the bigotry Rucker endured “made us a tighter fellowship.”
On “Drowning,” another track from Cracked Rear View, Rucker protested the omnipresence of the Confederate flag in the South, which feels particularly prescient given that Rucker would successfully transition to a career as a solo country artist.
You can check out the rest of the Times profile here.