Musicheads Essential Artist: Brittany Howard

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Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes
Brittany Howard performs with Alabama Shakes at Hall's Island in Minneapolis, 2014. (Nate Ryan/MPR)
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A prodigiously talented singer, songwriter, and guitarist who's become a torchbearer for a new generation of rockers, Brittany Howard is a Musicheads Essential Artist.

Brittany Howard was born in 1988 in Athens, Alabama. In her small community the 5'10" biracial girl was hard to miss, with her flair for vintage fashion and a visual impairment caused by treatment for a childhood cancer. What was most unique about Howard, though, was her undeniable musical gift.

She started playing guitar at age 13, and in high school she met bassist Zac Cockrell. They formed the band Alabama Shakes, which became an international sensation with the release of their 2012 debut LP, Boys & Girls. Their blues rock was called revivalist, but their originality was just as apparent as their influences.

While Alabama Shakes were a cohesive musical unit, there was no doubt that it was their leader, Brittany Howard, who made them one of the most compelling young bands of the decade. Whether Howard was belting a hit like "Hold On" or ripping a searing guitar riff, audiences simply couldn't look away.

By the time the Shakes' gale-force sophomore LP, Sound & Color, debuted at the top of Billboard's album chart in 2015, their fans included Barack Obama, Prince, and just about every music critic in the world.

Howard's other musical projects included the raucous Thunderbitch and the trio Bermuda Triangle. In 2019, she released her official solo debut, Jaime. That acclaimed album's diverse range of styles suggested that Brittany Howard's musical journey was just beginning. Her millions of fans are more than happy to be along for the ride.

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