16 August 2021

Nanci Griffith, 1953-2021

(photo: Julie Jacobson/ AP)

Des Butler sends this sad news:

Nanci Griffith, the Grammy-winning folk and country songwriter whose popular recordings include 'Love at the Five and Dime', 'Once in a very blue moon', and 'Outbound plane', died Friday 13 August 2021; no cause of death has been given. She was 68.

Born 6 July 1953 in Seguin, Texas, and raised in Austin, Nanci Caroline Griffith began her performing career as a teenager, playing at clubs and festivals around Texas. She attended the University of Texas and began a career as a teacher.

She released several albums, including Lone Star State of mind and Little love affairs that demonstrated her powers as a writer as well as an interpreter of others’ work. Among her best-charting country radio singles from this era were 'Lone Star State of mind', 'Trouble in the fields', 'Cold hearts/ closed minds', and 'I knew love'.

Griffith was also the first artist to record Julie Gold’s 'From a distance', which Bette Midler later cut in 1990 to massive pop success. Griffith’s recording of the song was successful in Ireland and helped endear her to performers like Mary Black, who championed her work and recorded a version of 'Once in a very blue moon'.

Though Griffith never got to experience a big radio hit with her own recordings, her songs were often recorded with greater success by others. 'Love at the Five and Dime', from The last of the true believers, earned Kathy Mattea a #3 country hit in 1986. Likewise, 'Outbound plane', which Griffith had written with Tom Russell for Little love affairs, ended up as a Top 10 hit for Suzy Bogguss in 1991. Other artists who cut Griffith’s songs include Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, and Maura O’Connell.

Her album Other voices, other rooms (1993) had a guest list that included Emmylou Harris, Guy Clark, Iris DeMent, and John Prine, who sang on her version of 'Speed of the sound of loneliness'. Other voices won a 1994 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album.

In July, it was announced that Griffith was among the incoming class of the Texas Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Nanci Griffith 1953-2021: RIP

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