Nanci Griffith
Griffith in 2004
Background information
Birth nameNanci Caroline Griffith
Born(1953-07-06)July 6, 1953
Seguin, Texas, U.S.
DiedAugust 13, 2021(2021-08-13) (aged 68)
Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.
GenresFolk, Country Folk, Americana
InstrumentsVocals, acoustic guitar
Years active1977–2013
LabelsB.F. Deal, Featherbed, Philo, MCA, Elektra, Rounder, New Door
Associated actsThe Crickets
Darius Rucker
the Kennedys
James McMurtry
Websitenancigriffith.com

Nanci Caroline Griffith (July 6, 1953 – August 13, 2021) was an American singer, guitarist, and songwriter,[1] raised in Austin, Texas, who lived in Nashville, Tennessee. Griffith appeared many times on the PBS music program Austin City Limits starting in 1985 (season 10). In 1994 she won a Grammy Award for the album Other Voices, Other Rooms.[2]

Griffith toured with various other artists, including Buddy Holly's band, the Crickets; John Prine; Iris DeMent; Suzy Bogguss; and Judy Collins. Griffith recorded duets with many artists, among them Emmylou Harris, Mary Black, John Prine, Don McLean, Jimmy Buffett, Dolores Keane, Willie Nelson, Adam Duritz (singer of Counting Crows), the Chieftains, John Stewart; and Darius Rucker (lead singer of Hootie & the Blowfish). Griffith had a backing band which she referred to as the Blue Moon Orchestra.

Early life and career

Nanci Griffith, the youngest of three siblings, was born in Seguin, Texas, but raised in Austin, the place her family moved to shortly after her birth.[3][4] Nanci's mother Ruelene was a real estate agent and amateur actress, her father, Marlin Griffith, was a graphic artist and barbershop quartet singer.[5][6] Nanci Griffith began her career as a singer performing in a local coffeehouse, aged 12.[5] Her father took her to see Townes Van Zandt as a teenager. At the age of 14, she did her first professional gig at the Red Lion Cabaret in downtown Austin.[7] Nanci's debut album, There’s a Light Beyond These Woods, was released in 1978, with a cover designed by her father.

Her career spanned a variety of musical genres, predominantly country, folk, and what she termed "folkabilly."[1] Griffith won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album in 1994 for her 1993 recording, Other Voices, Other Rooms.[8] This album features Griffith covering the songs of artists who were her major influences. One of her better-known songs is "From a Distance," which was written and composed by Julie Gold, although Bette Midler's version achieved greater commercial success.[citation needed] Similarly, other artists have occasionally achieved greater success than Griffith herself with songs that she wrote or co-wrote. For example, Kathy Mattea had a country music top five hit with a 1986 cover of Griffith's "Love at the Five and Dime"[9][citation needed] and Suzy Bogguss had one of her largest hits with Griffith's and Tom Russell's "Outbound Plane".[9][citation needed]

In 1994, Griffith teamed up with Jimmy Webb to contribute the song "If These Old Walls Could Speak" to the AIDS benefit album Red Hot + Country produced by the Red Hot Organization. Griffith was a survivor of breast cancer which was diagnosed in 1996, and thyroid cancer in 1998.[10]

Singer-songwriter Christine Lavin remembers the first time she saw Griffith perform:

I was struck by how perfect everything was about her singing, her playing, her talking. I realized from the get-go that this was someone who was a complete professional. Obviously she had worked a long time to get to be that good.[11]

Griffith toured with various other artists, including Buddy Holly's band, the Crickets; John Prine; Iris DeMent; Suzy Bogguss; and Judy Collins. Griffith recorded duets with many artists, among them Emmylou Harris, Mary Black, John Prine, Don McLean, Jimmy Buffett, Dolores Keane, Willie Nelson, Adam Duritz (singer of Counting Crows), the Chieftains, musician John Stewart; and Darius Rucker (lead singer of Hootie & the Blowfish). She also contributed background vocals on many other recordings.[12]

Cambridge Folk Festival, 2007

Griffith suffered from severe writer's block after 2004, lasting until the 2009 release of her The Loving Kind album, which contained nine selections that she had written and composed either entirely by herself or as collaborations.[13]

After several months of limited touring in 2011, Griffith's bandmates the Kennedys (Pete & Maura Kennedy) packed up their professional Manhattan recording studio and relocated it to Nashville, where they installed it in Griffith's home. At this location, with her backing group, including Pete & Maura Kennedy and Pat McInerney, she co-produced her album Intersection over the course of the summer. The album included several new original songs and was released in April 2012 on Proper Records.[14]

Griffith was among hundreds of artists whose material was destroyed in the Universal Studios fire in June 2008.[15]

Awards

Nanci Griffith, getting a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010.
Nanci Griffith, getting a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010.

Griffith won the 1994 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album for Other Voices, Other Rooms. She was inducted into Austin Music Hall of Fame in 1995.[16] Griffith was awarded the Kate Wolf Memorial Award by the World Folk Music Association in 1995.[17] In 2008, the Americana Music Association awarded her its Lifetime Americana Trailblazer Award.[18] Lyle Lovett, who contributed backing vocals to her third album, “Once in a Very Blue Moon,”[19] had won it before her. In 2010, Griffith received a Lifetime Achievement Award at BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.[20]

The Blue Moon Orchestra

Griffith referred to her backing band as the Blue Moon Orchestra. With regard to the chosen stage name, she wrote:

During the Christmas holidays of 1986 I organized a band of musicians to work this road of touring and to pass effortlessly through mine fields of studio sessions. They chose their name, THE BLUE MOON ORCHESTRA, from my third album, 'Once In A Very Blue Moon' Some of them I had recorded and toured with prior to 1986: and some simply wandered into the BLUE MOON ORCHESTRA through this revolving open door of the road.

— Nanci Griffith in 1997

The title selection of the Once in a Very Blue Moon album reached number 85 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart in 1986.[21][22]

Current members
Previous members
Guest backing vocalists

Personal life

Griffith's high school boyfriend, John, died in a motorcycle accident after taking her to the senior prom, and subsequently inspired many of her songs.[4] She was married to singer-songwriter Eric Taylor from 1976 to 1982. In the early 1990s, she was engaged to singer-songwriter Tom Kimmel.[23]

Death

Griffith died in Nashville on August 13, 2021, at the age of 68.[24][9][25]

Discography

Studio albums

Year Album Peak chart positions Label
US Country
[26]
US
[27]
UK
[28]
1978 There's a Light Beyond These Woods B.F. Deal
1982 Poet in My Window Featherbed
1984 Once in a Very Blue Moon Philo
1986 The Last of the True Believers
1987 Lone Star State of Mind 23 MCA
1988 Little Love Affairs 27 78
1989 Storms 42 99 38
1991 Late Night Grande Hotel 185 40
1993 Other Voices, Other Rooms 54 18 Elektra
1994 Flyer 48 20
1997 Blue Roses from the Moons 119 64
1998 Other Voices, Too (A Trip Back to Bountiful) 85
1999 The Dust Bowl Symphony
2001 Clock Without Hands 149 61
2004 Hearts in Mind New Door
2006 Ruby's Torch Rounder
2009 The Loving Kind
2012 Intersection Hell No
"—" denotes releases that did not chart

Live albums

Year Album Peak chart positions Label
US Country
[26]
US
[27]
UK
[28]
1988 One Fair Summer Evening 43 MCA
2002 Winter Marquee 45 Rounder
"—" denotes releases that did not chart

Compilation albums

Year Album Peak positions Label
UK[28]
1993 The MCA Years: A Retrospective MCA
The Best of Nanci Griffith 27
1997 Country Gold
2000 Wings to Fly and a Place To Be:
An Introduction to Nanci Griffith
2001 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection:
The Best of Nanci Griffith
2002 From a Distance: The Very Best of Nanci Griffith
2003 The Complete MCA Studio Recordings
2015 Ghost in the Music --- VOX ROX
"—" denotes releases that did not chart

Singles

Year Single Peak chart
positions
Album
US Country
[29]
CAN Country
[30]
Irish Singles Chart
[31]
1986 "Once in a Very Blue Moon" 85 Once in a Very Blue Moon
1987 "Lone Star State of Mind" 36 Lone Star State of Mind
"Trouble in the Fields" 57 43
"Cold Hearts/Closed Minds" 64
"Never Mind" 58 Little Love Affairs
1988 "From a Distance" 9 Lone Star State of Mind
"I Knew Love" 37 20 Little Love Affairs
"Anyone Can Be Somebody's Fool" 64
1989 "It's a Hard Life Wherever You Go" Storms
"I Don't Wanna Talk About Love"
1991 "Late Night Grande Hotel" Late Night Grande Hotel
1993 "Speed of the Sound of Loneliness" Other Voices, Other Rooms
1994 "This Heart" Flyer
1995 "Well...All Right" (with the Crickets) 87 Not Fade Away (Remembering Buddy Holly)
1997 "Maybe Tomorrow" Blue Roses from the Moons
"Gulf Coast Highway"
1999 "These Days in an Open Book" The Dust Bowl Symphony
"—" denotes releases that did not chart

Videography

Music videos

Year Video Director
1988 "I Knew Love" Michael Salomon
1989 "It's a Hard Life Wherever You Go"[32] Willy Smax
1991 "Late Night Grande Hotel"[33] Sophie Muller
1993 "Speed of the Sound of Loneliness" (with John Prine)[34] Rocky Schenck
1994 "This Heart"
1996 "Well...All Right" (with the Crickets)

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. pp. 548–9. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  2. ^ Sweeting, Adam (August 15, 2021). "Nanci Griffith obituary". the Guardian. Retrieved August 15, 2021.
  3. ^ Nanci Griffith Was More Loved Than She Knew , texasmonthly.com, August 16, 2021
  4. ^ a b "The Popdose Guide to Nanci Griffith". Popdose. January 8, 2008. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
  5. ^ a b Nanci Griffith’s death: Grammy-winning singer dies at 68 , globemediawire.com, Aug 14, 2021
  6. ^ Nanci Griffith: Grammy-winning singer dies aged 68, independent.co.uk, Aug 14, 2021
  7. ^ Remembering Nanci Griffith, the greatest Austin-raised singer-songwriter ever, statesman.com, Aug 27, 2021
  8. ^ "Nanci Griffith: Folk and country singer-songwriter dies aged 68". BBC. August 14, 2021. Retrieved August 16, 2021.
  9. ^ a b c People magazine August 30th, 2021 issue Page 24
  10. ^ "Biography". Archived from the original on January 13, 2007. Retrieved January 13, 2007. originating from nancigriffith.com Retrieved January 31, 2013
  11. ^ Deitz, Roger (May/June 1995). "Home at Last". Acoustic Guitar. No. 30. p. 52.
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved September 5, 2006.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ "Her songs were an extension of her literary interests – she wrote long-form and short-form fiction that sometimes became songs, and vice versa – and when songs wouldn’t come (she suffered from songwriter’s block between 2004 and 2009), she would use prose to try and keep the words flowing." in: Obituary: Nanci Griffith, Grammy-winning singer-songwriter, by Rob Adams, heraldscotland.com, August 16th, 2021
  14. ^ Griffith, Nanci (December 20, 2011). "Intersection". Proper-records.co.uk.
  15. ^ Rosen, Jody (June 25, 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
  16. ^ Powerfully Poetic Folk and Country Songwriter Nanci Griffith Has Died at Age 68, austinchronicle.com, Aug. 13, 2021
  17. ^ Noble, Richard E. (2009). Number No. 1 : the story of the original Highwaymen. Denver: Outskirts Press. pp. 265–267. ISBN 9781432738099. OCLC 426388468.
  18. ^ "In 2008, the Americana Music Association gave her a Lifetime Americana Trailblazer Award." in: Nanci Griffith, Singer Who Blended Folk and Country, Dies at 68, nytimes.com, Aug 13, 2021
  19. ^ "Doster played guitar on Griffith’s first album in 1978, and joined her in Nashville for her third, “Once In A Very Blue Moon,” six years later. By then, Griffith had a record deal with folk label Rounder, and a lot of friends and musical collaborators to call on. Her acoustic sound had been amped up a notch, with stalwart Nashville players like Béla Fleck, Roy Huskey Jr. and Mark O’Connor – and a lanky guy she knew from the Texas music scene named Lyle Lovett, singing harmony." in: Remembering Nanci Griffith: ‘She Was Just A Good, Good, Good Songwriter’, by Shelly Brisbin, texasstandard.org, August 16, 2021
  20. ^ Lifetime Achievement Award for Nanci Griffith, bbc.co.uk, Feb 1, 2010
  21. ^ "Griffith didn’t write the title song from “Once In A Very Blue Moon,” but she made the Pat Alger tune her own – so much so that the band she formed in the late 1980s, and toured with for 20 years, was called the Blue Moon Orchestra." in: Remembering Nanci Griffith: ‘She Was Just A Good, Good, Good Songwriter’, by Shelly Brisbin, texasstandard.org, August 16, 2021
  22. ^ "From that point on, Griffith named every band she fronted, big or small, The Blue Moon Orchestra. The clear desire, I assume, was to honor and recall that album’s familial spirit. The core of the band stayed with her for the long haul." in: Music Remembrance: Singer-songwriter Nanci Griffith (1953-2021), by Daniel Gewertz, artsfuse.org, September 14, 2021
  23. ^ Ibrahim, Samantha (August 13, 2021), "Nanci Griffith, Grammy-winning 'Five and Dime' singer, dead at 68", New York Post, retrieved August 14, 2021CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  24. ^ Aswad, Jem (August 13, 2021). "Nanci Griffith, Grammy-Winning Singer-Songwriter, Dies at 68". Variety. Retrieved August 13, 2021.
  25. ^ Dansby, Andrew (August 13, 2021). "Texas legend and Grammy-winning folk singer-songwriter Nanci Griffith dies".
  26. ^ a b "Nanci Griffith Album & Song Chart History – Country Albums". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media.
  27. ^ a b "Nanci Griffith Album & Song Chart History – Billboard 200". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media.
  28. ^ a b c Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 236. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  29. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2008). Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2008. Record Research, Inc. ISBN 978-0-89820-177-2.
  30. ^ "Results – RPM – Library and Archives Canada – Country Singles". RPM. July 17, 2013.
  31. ^ "The Irish charts – All there is to know - Nanci Griffith". IRMA.
  32. ^ "CMT : Videos : Nanci Griffith : It's A Hard Life Wherever You Go". Country Music Television. Retrieved January 21, 2013.
  33. ^ "CMT : Videos : Nanci Griffith : Late Night Grande Hotel". Country Music Television. Retrieved January 21, 2013.
  34. ^ "CMT : Videos : Nanci Griffith : Speed of the Sound Of Loneliness". Country Music Television. Retrieved January 21, 2013.