Sitting In

    Nanci Griffith: Sometimes a Rare Music

    Issue 144

    A master of songcraft is silent now, passing on Friday, August 13, 2021.

    Nanci Griffith, singer, songwriter and proponent of "folkabilly”: her unique combination of folk and country is gone at 68.

    Griffith was born in Seguin, Texas On July 6, 1953. Griffith's high school boyfriend, John, died in a motorcycle accident after taking her to the senior prom, and subsequently became the muse of many of her songs.

    Her first recording, There's a Light Beyond These Woods, was recorded in 1978 for B.F. Deal Records in Austin, TX.

    Louis Black of The Austin Chronicle wrote, "Nanci Griffith's songs have always taken me back to those places. Reminded me how light shone through warped kitchen windows, how snow-covered mornings smelled, how a partner looked moving through the house. Griffith's songs develop like Polaroids of lost moments, often of almost mundane subjects – not great passion, but the way the bathtub tilted or heading outdoors to bring in oranges for juice. Photos I'd thought were long lost. Griffith's songs made me realize those snapshots will always be with me in some way."

    Griffith won a Grammy Award in 1994 for her Other Voices, Other Rooms album. She recorded songs written by the artists that influenced her most, including Kate Wolf, Bob Dylan, John Prine, Janis Ian, Tom Paxton and Townes Van Zandt among others. The title was borne from Truman Capote's book about the terror of abandonment, the misery of loneliness and the yearning to be loved.


    Nanci first recorded Julie Gold’s “From a Distance,” which I prefer to Bette Midler’s hit version.


    Later in her career she kept playing while battling breast cancer in 1996, thyroid cancer in 1998, and a painful case of Dupuytren’s contracture, an abnormal thickening of the skin on the hand, which severely limited the mobility of her fingers.

    The Americana Music Association gave Nanci a Lifetime American Trailblazer Award, in a ceremony held in the historic Ryman Auditorium in 2008. Sadly, on June 25, 2019, The New York Times listed Nanci Griffith among the numerous artists whose original recordings were destroyed in the Universal Studios fire in 2008.


    Nancy is a bridge from our musical heritage to all those who inherit her legacy for an inspired future to come.

    “In Our Woods, Sometimes a Rare Music”

    Every spring
    I hear the thrush singing
    in the glowing woods
    he is only passing through.
    His voice is deep,
    then he lifts it until it seems
    to fall from the sky.
    I am thrilled.
    I am grateful.

    Then, by the end of morning,
    he's gone, nothing but silence
    out of the tree
    where he rested for a night.
    And this I find acceptable.
    Not enough is a poor life.
    But too much is, well, too much.
    Imagine Verdi or Mahler
    every day, all day.
    It would exhaust anyone.

    ― Mary Oliver, A Thousand Mornings


    Header image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Bryan Ledgard.

    13 comments on “Nanci Griffith: Sometimes a Rare Music”

    1. Thank you for the tribute!

      Nanci is/was one of my favorite female vocalists. I have every album that she has ever done.

      I've seen her numerous times in concert. What a tremendous voice.

      The last year or two has been tough for losing such immense talent.

      R.I.P. Nanci and thanks for all the great music!!!

      1. Thank you for kindly taking the time out of your day to comment. With all the chaos and strife in the world today, it would be easy to miss the passing of such a beautiful soul. I hope we can recognize Nanci as one who asked for nothing more but to slow down and listen to the humanity in each of us.

      1. Thanks much, coming from you that means a lot. We really value the feedback, Frank Doris ~ Copper's editor selects the articles with the reader's interests in mind.

    2. Very nice article Michael, reading this made me stop, go over to Tidal and give a listen as I read. I've always like folk style and believe or not, my drivers Ed boss, Lorraine Jordan folk singer/performer has a picture of the two of them together. Wow, it's interesting how paths cross. Good work!!

      Lets keep listening 🙂

      1. Hey Mike; really appreciate your time and feed back. Frank Doris our editor has some fantastic things to come
        hope to see you back again. Take care sir!

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