Rhiannon Giddens visited on The Daily Show with current presenter Michael Kosta to sing her recent song “Another Waste Life” and to discuss her Pulitzer-winning opera, Omar. Giddens sang “Another Wasted Life,” off her latest album, You’re the One, in a moving and passionate performance.
During her conversation with Kosta, Rhiannon Giddens talked about how she came up with the character of Omar, as well as the terrible narrative of Kalief Browder, whose suicide in jail inspired “Another Wasted Life.” As she reflected on her passion for the instrument and how it shows in her music, she also discussed the banjo’s cultural significance in American history.
You’re the One, Giddeons’ first solo album in six years, was released in August and was her first collection of all-original songs. Jack Splash (Solange, Kendrick Lamar) produced You’re the One, which features musical contributions from Giddens’ partner, multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi, as well as Dirk Powell, Jason Sypher, and Congolese musician Niwel Tsumbu. Jason Isbell is credited as a featured artist on the song “Yet to Be.”
Rhiannon Giddens detailed the motivation for “Another Waste Life” in a post on her website after the album was published. “I wrote ‘Another Wasted Life’ after reading about the tragic suicide of Kalief Browder – another poor soul caught up in the incarceration system for a crime he didn’t commit,” she wrote in a letter.
“He was kept in solitary confinement for nearly two years, which is torture that no one deserves, no matter what they did or did not do.” The entire for-profit prison industrial complex, an extension of slavery, is a stain on the American tale; the people and families caught up in it, as well as the countless glaring breaches in the social safety net, require enormous amounts of assistance.”
She went on to say, “These ongoing societal struggles are so far beyond any one of us, and have been long at play; but, I will use my platform to take things just one step further in the conversation.”
Rhiannon Giddens received a Pulitzer Prize in Music earlier this year for her co-written opera Omar with Michael Abels.