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Meet Rhiannon Giddens, Newly Minted MacArthur 'Genius'

On Wednesday morning, Rhiannon Giddens was awarded a MacArthur "Genius Grant."
Courtesy of the artist
On Wednesday morning, Rhiannon Giddens was awarded a MacArthur "Genius Grant."

As a solo artist — and, before that, as a member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops — singer-songwriter Rhiannon Giddens has made a career out of revitalizing and invigorating decades' worth of music reflecting the African-American experience. That's meant singing songs written from slave narratives and for civil rights leaders, and even occasionally offering up twists on contemporary hits.

Today, Giddens joins the impressive list of artists and thinkers who've received so-called "Genius Grants" from the MacArthur Foundation. The recipients — others this year include Tyshawn Sorey and Yuval Sharon — each receive $625,000 with no strings attached, in the hope that they can pursue their work without financial limitations.

If Giddens' recognition has piqued your interest, below you'll find a nice introduction — a cross-section of performances from and interviews with Giddens, captured by NPR Music and our partner stations in the last few years.

  • Hear Giddens speak with Fresh Air's Terry Gross in 2017 and with Morning Edition's Renee Montagne in February 2015
  • Read a review of her 2017 album, Freedom Highway
  • Stream Giddens' 2016 set and Carolina Chocolate Drops' 2009 and 2012 sets fromMountain Stage
  • Listen to an 80-minute panel discussion with Giddens, Patty Griffin, Shakey Graves and NPR Music's Ann Powers
  • Relive Carolina Chocolate Drops' 2012 Weekend Edition Saturday profile, 2010 World Cafe session, and 2011 appearance at the Newport Folk Festival
  • Hear a pair of 2007 NPR interviews with the Carolina Chocolate Drops on News & Notes and Weekend Edition Sunday
  • Check out a 2010 profile of the band on Fresh Air
  • Note: The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, whichthese grants, is among NPR's financial supporters.

    Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)