While this cross-generational collaboration may seem unexpected, both artists have long histories of addressing racism. The 65-year-old Hornsby has touched on prejudice several times throughout his career, including on his biggest radio hit, 1986’s “The Way It Is”. Then, too, there’s his decades-long relationship with Spike Lee, where he’s provided the musical backdrop to some of the most vital cinematic moments of the last 25 years. And as for the 30-year-old Woods, the fight against injustice is one of many plots that run through her two titanic albums, 2017’s HEAVN and the 2019 masterpiece, LEGACY! LEGACY!.
“Bright Star Cast” is a rollicking funk-rock number that’s indebted to the work of George Clinton. Hornsby’s old pal Vernon Reid of Living Colour provides the lead guitar on a tightly-layered track that also features violins, violas, cellos, bass, and thumping, empowering drums. “Here we are at last/ Light of our bright star is cast,” Hornsby sings. “Moving inexorably, insistently/ Moving to free.” For her verse, Woods finds a groove in a stuttering, syncopated flow. She sings of radical self-love that is also self-creation. “Through unique, bold, arresting self-expression/ We’ll create our own names, own songs, own style/ Our way to be free and wild, wild.”
In a statement, Hornsby spoke of his hope that the current movement to end racial inequality will succeed. He said,
“This attempt marks the seventh song of my career that deals with the issue of race in America, a deep, seemingly intractable problem that never seems to be solved in any satisfactory way — until, hopefully, now,”
“Bright Star Cast” is the second single from Hornsby’s forthcoming record Non-Secure Connection, out August 14th. Previously, he shared “My Resolve” featuring James Mercer. Last year, Hornsby released an album called Absolute Zero, and guested on Bon Iver’s i,i.