Nanci Griffith

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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.
Genres Folk, Country Folk, Americana
InstrumentsVocals, acoustic guitar
Years active1977–2013
Labels B.F. Deal, Featherbed, Philo, MCA, Elektra, Rounder, New Door
Associated actsThe Blue Moon Orchestra
The Crickets
Darius Rucker
The Kennedys
James McMurtry

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. 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. [7] 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" [8] [ citation needed ] and Suzy Bogguss had one of her largest hits with Griffith's and Tom Russell's "Outbound Plane". [8] [ 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. [9]

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. [10]

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. [11] Griffith suffered from severe writer's block for a number of years 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.[ citation needed ]

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. [12]

Griffith was among hundreds of artists whose material was destroyed in the Universal Studios fire in June 2008. [13]


Griffith won the 1994 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album for Other Voices, Other Rooms. Griffith was awarded the Kate Wolf Memorial Award by the World Folk Music Association in 1995. [14] In 2008, the Americana Music Association awarded her its Americana Trailblazer Award.[ citation needed ] Lyle Lovett, who contributed backing vocals to some of "The Blue Moon Orchestra's" recordings,[ which? ] had won it before her.

Band (The Blue Moon Orchestra)

Griffith referred to her backing band as "The Blue Moon Orchestra". This reference is believed to have been drawn from both the title of one of her earliest albums, Once in a Very Blue Moon,[ citation needed ] and its title selection, which reached number 85 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart in 1986.

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. [15]


Griffith died in Nashville on August 13, 2021, at the age of 68. [16] [8]


Studio albums

YearAlbumPeak chart positionsLabel
US Country
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 2778
1989 Storms 429938
1991 Late Night Grande Hotel 18540
1993 Other Voices, Other Rooms 5418 Elektra
1994 Flyer 4820
1997 Blue Roses from the Moons 11964
1998 Other Voices, Too (A Trip Back to Bountiful) 85
1999 The Dust Bowl Symphony
2001 Clock Without Hands 14961
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

YearAlbumPeak chart positionsLabel
US Country
1988 One Fair Summer Evening 43 MCA
2002 Winter Marquee 45 Rounder
"—" denotes releases that did not chart

Compilation albums

YearAlbumPeak positionsLabel
UK [19]
1993 The MCA Years: A Retrospective MCA
The Best of Nanci Griffith 27
1997 Country Gold
2000Wings to Fly and a Place To Be:
An Introduction to Nanci Griffith
200120th 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
2015Ghost in the Music---VOX ROX
"—" denotes releases that did not chart


YearSinglePeak chart
US Country
CAN Country
Irish Singles Chart
1986"Once in a Very Blue Moon"85Once in a Very Blue Moon
1987"Lone Star State of Mind"36Lone Star State of Mind
"Trouble in the Fields"5743
"Cold Hearts/Closed Minds"64
"Never Mind"58Little Love Affairs
1988"From a Distance"9Lone Star State of Mind
"I Knew Love"3720Little 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


Music videos

1988"I Knew Love" Michael Salomon
1989"It's a Hard Life Wherever You Go" [23] Willy Smax
1991"Late Night Grande Hotel" [24] Sophie Muller
1993"Speed of the Sound of Loneliness" (with John Prine) [25] Rocky Schenck
1994"This Heart"
1996"Well...All Right" (with The Crickets)

See also

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