Rhiannon Giddens is a newly minted MacArthur 'Genius'

Rhiannon Giddens performs on Radio Heartland
Rhiannon Giddens performs in the Radio Heartland studio. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)

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.

Rhiannon Giddens - Lonesome Road / Up Above My Head

Performed live in the studio of Radio Heartland and The Current in April 2015

Rhiannon Giddens, 'She's Got You'

Performed live on WFUV in February 2015

Rhiannon Giddens, 'The Love We Almost Had'

Performed on World Cafe in January 2017

Rhiannon Giddens, 'Waterboy'

Performed live at the 2015 Americana Music Honors & Awards Show

Additional Performances, Interviews, And Reviews

  • 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 from Mountain 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, which awards these grants, is among NPR's financial supporters.

    Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.


    Rhiannon Giddens - official site

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    • Rhiannon Giddens performs in the Radio Heartland studio A fantastic musician, Rhiannon Giddens is also a great juggler: Fronting the Carolina Chocolate Drops, working with T Bone Burnett on film scores and on 'The New Basement Tapes', plus supporting her new solo album, 'Tomorrow Is My Turn', keeps Giddens busy. 'I am tirelessly promoting this obscure, forgotten music that is worthy of so much love and energy and attention,' she says. Listen to her full in-studio session, hosted by Mike Pengra.