Brittany Howard

Brittany Howard by Josh Brasted/Getty Images

When Brittany Howard was growing up in rural Athens, Alabama, it was a carefree and simple time for her until Jaime, her older sister, began to suffer from retinoblastoma, a rare cancer of the eye. Eventually, her sister died from the disease, and Howard moved in with her mom in Madison, Alabama after her parents split up. “I still talk to her every day, think about her every day,” Howard told Pitchfork. It was there that she really got into music — Jaime had taught her how to write poetry and play piano, but Howard figured out the rest on her own. She started going to concerts regularly, and sneaking out to watch bands at night. Eventually, she and members Heath Fogg, Steve Johnson, and Zac Cockrell formed their own band. They went on to become Alabama Shakes, and rocketed to both popular and critical acclaim with two albums: “Boys and Girls” and “Sound & Color,” the latter of which won three Grammy Awards. In 2018, Howard put the band on hiatus to release “Jaime,” her solo album. She also married Jesse Lafser, a member of the Bermuda Triangle Band, another band which Howard is also part of. “My identity is very clear to me and I don’t have to make it clear to anyone else, because I don’t think that’s important — what anyone else thinks about me or what box they want to put me in,” she told NPR. —IL

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