(And the Stories Behind Her Songs)

   
   
 
Above:  My tattered and well-traveled "Other Voices" book, by Nanci Griffith.
 

I was heartbroken last Friday when I learned that singer-songwriter Nanci Griffith had died, at age 68.  She was an endearing and influential artist who, for many decades, created music that touched the lives of millions of people around the world, including me.  I never met Nanci – the closest I ever got to her was sitting 20 feet from the stage at one of her concerts – but her powerful, sincere and intelligent songs were an important part of my life for many years and always will be.

I hadn’t listened to Nanci’s music in a few years, but after reading the sad news on Friday I’ve been playing her albums again and watching some of her old music videos.  Then I decided to create this webpage so I could pay tribute to her and share her story with others, wanting in my own small way to help preserve her extraordinary legacy.

Along with sharing her story, I also wanted to share her music.  Nanci had a passion for sharing great music with her listeners and it didn’t matter if they were her songs, or written by an aspiring songwriter, or written a hundred years ago.   On each of her albums she almost seemed to say, “Here’s some great music I think you should hear.”  She cared less about selling albums and making scads of money, it seemed, than about passing great music along to others.

In her spirit of sharing rather than selling, therefore, I decided to do the same here on my (non-monetized) website.  But in this case, it’s HER music that I want to share.  So as Nanci might say, here’s some great music I think you should hear – along with the story of how I fell in love with it.

––  Click on any of the bolded songs below to hear them and see the lyrics.  ––

My First Taste of Her Music

 
 
 
Above:  That's me (left) listening to our family's hi-fi stereo in the early 1960s with my older brother, Dwight.  This is how my love affair with music all started.

Music is and always has been an important part of my life, as you know if you’ve been reading my websites.  The stereo in my house is almost always on and my earbuds are always within reach when I travel.  I listen to music virtually all the time:  at work, at home, in my truck, and just about anywhere I go.  Being single I can do that, since I don’t have to argue with anyone about the “when," the “which album,” or the “how loud.”  

From the early 1970s through the late 1980s I listened to artists like James Taylor, the Eagles and Emmylou Harris, first on eight-track tapes and vinyl, then on cassettes and, ultimately, CDs (that’s how we listened to music back in the “old days” before MP3s and iTunes).  And even though I’ve always lived alone, I’ve never been lonely because music has been my constant companion through life.

My life changed forever in 1991, though, when I turned on the TV one evening and watched an episode of the music show, “Austin City Limits"  The show that night featured a lively young folksinger from Austin, Texas with a powerful voice that belied her diminutive size.  Her name was Nanci Griffith and she captivated me with personal songs that described her life’s experiences and, in other songs, a range of vivid characters.  The song that stuck with me the most from that show was Ford Econoline, the story of a Mormon wife who split from her family and went traveling across the country in her van because she wanted to sing.  I mean, who writes songs like that?  I decided that this Nanci Griffith was my kind of artist! 

A few weeks later, as I was walking through the music department of the nearby Fred Meyer grocery store, I happened to see one of Nanci’s CDs called “One Fair Summer Evening.”  It was a live recording of her music, which she had performed in a Houston nightclub in 1988.  I bought the CD, took it home and listened to it.  Then I listened to it again.  I loved Nanci’s lyrics and edgy voice, and the more I listened to her music, the more I liked it.  The country singer, Iris Dement, once said the same thing:

“Years ago, a friend gave me a tape that he’d made of this person, Nanci Griffith, so I listened to it and I liked it.  It seemed the more I listened to it, the more I liked it.  And then I got to where I liked it so much I couldn’t turn it off.”

I listened to Nanci's CD more and more over the next few weeks and got hooked.  I bought another CD of hers and then another, then I started looking for everything she had ever recorded.  This was back in the pre-Internet days of the early 1990s, long before Amazon or music streaming when, if you wanted a CD, you had to find it either in a store or through a record club (remember those?) 

   
 
 
Above: This was my introduction to Nanci Griffith.  This is her 1989 performance on Austin City Limits.
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Over the next few years I cobbled together every CD that Nanci had ever recorded, even her earliest recordings, which were rare and hard to find.  I loved her music because she sang about an incredibly wide range of topics in eclectic songs that often described life from perspectives I’d never considered. 

Through her songs she revealed the lonely life of a troubadour (Workin' in Corners), paid tribute to Dust Bowl farmers (Trouble in the Fields), sympathized with an aging rancher (Montana Backroads), celebrated a hard-working streetwalker (Workin' Girl), described a Norwegian one-night stand (St. Olav's Gate), dissed a yuppie (One Blade Shy of a Sharp Edge), and fell in love at a country fair (Roseville Fair).  Each of her albums was a whirlwind of people, places and emotions.

Nanci liked to support her fellow musicians, so she seamlessly included songs from other artists (mostly lesser-known songwriters) on her CDs, not because they’d boost sales of her albums necessarily, but simply they were great songs that she wanted to share with those who otherwise might never hear them.  By doing that, she opened the doors of the music industry to many struggling songwriters, including Lyle Lovett.  She also opened her heart to her listeners, more than any singer I knew, with her intimate tales of personal love and loss.  Some people wear their heart on their sleeve, but she SANG with her heart on her sleeve.

In Nanci I had found a new favorite artist.

Nanci’s Early Life

Nanci Caroline Griffith was born in Seguin, Texas, near San Antonio, in 1953 into a family with deep Texan roots, her ancestors having arrived through the port of Galveston in the 1800s before moving out to west Texas.  When she was very young, Nanci and her two siblings moved to Austin with their parents – her father was a printer and her mother was a real estate agent.  Both parents embraced the beatnik counterculture and were "hippies" of their day, but, as Nanci admitted later, they were not the best of caregivers when she was young. 

Although her family was dysfunctional, she was comforted by the music that surrounded her as she grew up.  Her dad loved playing traditional Appalachian and folk music, including Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, at their home in Austin and occasionally sang in a barbershop quartet, while her mother, who embraced the Beat lifestyle more than her father, played jazz and big band music on the family’s hi-fi stereo.

Nanci’s parents had divergent political views and grew apart, however, and they divorced in 1960.  It was a dark time in young Nanci’s life but she found solace in writing poetry, then bought a Yamaha acoustic guitar when she was nine.  She learned how to play it by watching a PBS show while developing her own unique fingerstyle method, not having a teacher to show her the “right” way.  She started writing songs around the age of 12 by putting her poetry to music – the title of her first song, which she wrote in 1965, was "A New Generation" – and two years later she began performing professionally, at the Red Lion coffeehouse.  Owned by a family friend on Sixth Street, the Red Lion was the first Beat coffeehouse in Austin.  The original act had cancelled that night so the owner called Nanci:

“I did my first professional gig at the age of 14 on a Thanksgiving evening downtown at the Red Lion Cabaret.  I made $11.  It was a great evening.  Nobody came, I was terrible, but I made 11 bucks (smiles).”

   
   
 
Above:  An early performance.
 

Though divorced, her parents supported and encouraged Nanci’s musical aspirations through her teen years.  Her dad once gave Nanci advice to “never become complacent with your art” on a hand-written note that she kept and cherished for years afterwards.  Her parents drove her around to different clubs in Austin, a city that was a hotbed of live music then and now, so she could hear her favorite artists and, occasionally, perform. 

She attended a Catholic high school in Austin, left home at 16, then enrolled at the University of Texas in Austin in the early 1970s with thoughts of becoming a kindergarten teacher.  She continued performing music in her spare time, however.  When she was young, her main goal was to be a songwriter, not a singer, but people seemed to like her voice. 

She decided to give up her teaching plans in the mid-1970s to focus on music, then traded in her small Yamaha guitar for a Martin D-28 that was almost bigger than she was (it would become a longtime companion), and in 1978 she recorded her first album, “There’s a Light Beyond These Woods,” on a small label.  She used her savings, with help from a personal bank loan, to produce the album, then used the proceeds from its sales and took out another personal loan to produce her second album in 1982.  She released two more albums over the next four years, both of which were also self-financed, using the proceeds from one album's sales and bank loans to produce the next. 

Nanci continued recording strong albums through the 1980s, which many consider to be her peak years, with songs that described her experiences of life, love and heartache.  Other songs painted a palette of semi-fictional but colorful characters – she really put the “folk” in folk music – including that Mormon wife in her Ford Econoline.

 


Her First Four Albums:  1978 - 1986

       
   
 

1978:  There's a Light Beyond These Woods

 

 

1982:  Poet in My Window

 

   
 

1984:  Once in a Blue Moon

 

 

1986:  The Last of the True Believers

 


Her Career Starts Rolling

   
 
 
Above: Singing one of her biggest hits, "Love at the Five and Dime," at the Anderson Fair nightclub in Houston in 1988.  Her ex-husband, Eric Taylor (they had divorced six years earlier), is standing behind her singing harmony.  I love her introduction to this song.

Nanci’s first few albums had a raw, unpolished sound but featured honest and affecting songs.  In a way, I like those early albums the most because they were unvarnished and pure Nanci without embellishments.  Their sound was clean and unadorned – mainly because she couldn't afford anything more.

Through the late 1970s and into the early 1980s she honed her craft while performing at countless nightclubs and bars throughout Texas and the southeast, an experience she described in her wistful song, Workin' in Corners.  One of her most beloved venues was the Anderson Fair, a barn-like structure in the arts district of Houston, which opened in 1969 by two owners named Anderson and Fair.  Intended originally as a coffee house, the Anderson Fair morphed into a performance venue for an eclectic group of aspiring singer-songwriters, including Nanci and Lyle Lovett. 

The Anderson Fair operated on a shoestring budget for decades and parts of the structure, including its red brick floor, had been built piecemeal from salvaged buildings in Houston.  In the early 1980s, Nanci wrote Spin on a Red Brick Floor to salute Anderson Fair and she performed it in her 1988 music video, "One Fair Summer Evening," which was recorded there.  The "Tim" she mentioned throughout the song was the Fair's dedicated owner, Tim Leatherwood.  Several years later Nanci said, "Anderson Fair, in a historical context for American music, is as important as the Grand Ole Opry is to country music."

   
 
Above: This was her first hit, a true story about her best childhood friend.  This is from her 1988 video, "One Fair Summer Evening" recorded at the Anderson Fair.
 
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Nanci was an incredibly prolific and influential songwriter and, although she never had huge commercial success as a singer, many of the songs she wrote in the 1980s became hits for more renown artists, including Love at the Five and Dime for country singer Kathy Mattea, Gulf Coast Highway for Emmylou Harris, and Outbound Plane for Suzy Bogguss. 

Many of her songs were intensely personal and were based on her life’s actual experiences and real emotions, one reason her small-but-devoted group of fans adored her.  From age 12 until 17, she had dated a boy, John, in Austin who died in a motorcycle accident shortly after their high school senior prom in the early 1970s.  It was a traumatic event for Nanci and for many years afterwards she wore a necklace that John had given her.  She also expressed her grief by referring to him in several songs that she wrote over the next 20 years.  Most notably, she mentioned John (twice) in the title track of her 1978 debut album, There's a Light Beyond These Woods, a song about a real-life childhood friend of hers in Austin named Mary Margaret (Maggie) Graham and how their three lives had intertwined.  When they were young, Nanci and Maggie often rode their bicycles up to Mt. Bonnell in Austin in the evenings and flung bottlecaps at the lights of Austin, which they could see through the woods.

In 1984 she wrote a song that indirectly referred to John’s death, Ballad of Robin Winter-Smith, which was the true story of a motorcycle stunt performer who had died in an accident in 1979 in front of 10,000 people in England while trying to set the world’s record for jumping over cars.  A year later, in 1985, Nanci made her debut performance on “Austin City Limits” and opened her half-hour set with that song.

Nanci referred to her boyfriend John and his death again three years later in her poignant song So Long Ago, which appeared on her 1988 album, aptly called “Little Love Affairs.”  Writing that song, she said a few years later, was cathartic because she had been trying to deal with his death for nearly two decades without really addressing it.  She sang the song during her "Other Voices, Other Rooms" tour in 1993 (and sometimes with a tear in her eye) but otherwise rarely performed it in public.

She wrote dozens of intimate songs throughout her career and performed them in front of large audiences, which was ironic because Nanci was known to be a private person when she was off-stage.  On a personal note, I can understand that incongruity because, although I’m private and introverted, preferring to spend an evening alone reading a book rather than socializing with friends in a loud setting, I enjoy writing about my travels in my websites and have described personal events there that I don’t often talk about even with close friends.  My travel websites are, I suppose, my way of expressing myself and describing my experiences, and Nanci was perhaps the same way when she wrote songs.

In 1976 when she was 23, Nanci married a singer-songwriter, Eric Taylor, and recorded some of his songs on her early albums, including Dollar Matineewhich she included on her debut album in 1978 (Eric sang the lead on the song and she sang harmony).  But they divorced after six years of marriage and Nanci never remarried or had children.  Six years after their divorce, in 1988, she released I Wish It Would Rain, a song she had written about her breakup with Eric, referring to "her love from the Georgia pines" (Eric was born in Atlanta) and hoping to "find that love at 22" – the year before they married – "here at 33."  She and Eric remained friends, however, and he sang harmony on several of her subsequent records and occasionally helped her through difficult times for many years after their divorce.  Eric died in 2020 at age 70 from liver disease.

 
 
Above:  Here's the entire video of her 1988 live performance at the Anderson Fair nightclub in Houston, from the VHS tape called "One Fair Summer Evening."

A Move to Nashville

Nanci left her beloved Austin in 1985 and moved to Nashville, Tennessee, partly to be closer to the music industry.  She bought a century-old farmhouse outside of town, put in a small recording studio, and by the late 1980s had become well-known in the singer-songwriter community, not just in Nashville but around the country.  She toured in Europe frequently, especially in Ireland where she occasionally performed and recorded music with the traditional Irish folk music band, the Chieftains.  She even maintained an apartment in Dublin for a while, but she had a falling out with the Chieftains later, in the mid-1990s.  As I recall, it was an issue regarding what Nanci perceived to be their implicit support for the Irish militant organization, the IRA. 

   
 
 
Above: This is from her 1993 video, "Other Voices, Other Rooms."  It was filmed live in Austin.  Behind Nanci are her sister, nieces and nephews, along with the folksinger, Odetta.
  ..

She referred to the Irish “troubles” in her 1989 song, It's a Hard Life Wherever You Go, describing early in that song the situation on Falls Road in Belfast, a common site of contention between Catholics and Protestants.  Nanci tended to favor liberal causes and her fallout with the Chieftains reflected her growing political outspokenness as her career matured.  That trend increasingly influenced both her songwriting and her actions – including her decision to leave Texas – and prompted a bit of backlash among some of her followers.

Though she was popular among her relatively small group of devoted fans, Nanci never struck it big commercially as a singer mainly because, although she dabbled in many styles throughout her career (calling her music “folkabilly”), she refused to waver from her fundamental roots in folk music, a genre that was considered passe by the 1980s.  Music executives didn’t know how to market a folkie like Nanci to mainstream audiences and tried nudging her in different directions but, from a commercial perspective, it never really worked.  She was proud to carry the banner of folk music through the 1980s and 1990s, three decades after its commercial heyday had passed, but at times she grew frustrated that her songs never received much radio airplay.  That was partly because her edgy and almost-childlike voice was an acquired taste for some.  One radio DJ claimed that he never played Nanci’s music because her voice “hurt his listener’s ears." 

After self-financing her first four albums, she signed with MCA in 1987 and produced "Lone Star State of Mind" and "Little Love Affairs," two albums that, like her earlier efforts, had a distinct country flair.  MCA wanted to boost her sales, though, so they tried moving her towards pop music and a more mainstream audience, and she reluctantly complied.  In 1989, she released "Storms" followed in 1991 by "Late Night Grande Hotel," albums that featured a more polished and lush sound, which appealed to some of Nanci's fans but alienated others.  She decided to go back to her folk and country roots, so she switched labels to Elektra in the early 1990s, a move that had an immediate impact.

 


Nanci's Albums:  1987 - 1989

The mid- to late-1980s was probably her most prolific period as a songwriter.

       
   
 

1987:  Lone Star State of Mind

 

 

1988:  Little Love Affairs

 

   
 

1988:  One Fair Summer Evening (Live)

 

 

1989:  Storms

 


"Other Voices" and a Grammy

In 1993, and now recording with Elektra, Nanci released her tenth and perhaps finest album, “Other Voices, Other Rooms,” using the title of Truman Capote’s first novel.  The book was about returning home and, in that same vein, the album featured Nanci’s interpretations of songs that had influenced her when she was young or had been sung by artists who inspired her in her younger days, some of whom joined her on the record.  Some critics dismissed it as just an album of covers, but her fans loved it and it was among her biggest successes, rising to number 54 on the Billboard chart and earning her the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album in 1994.  It was her lone Grammy among the five nominations she received during her career. 

   
 
 
Above: This is the song that inspired her 1993 "Other Voices, Other Rooms" album.  Nanci is joined by Emmylou Harris, who sings harmony, and Kate Wolf's guitarist, Nina Gerber.
  ..

Nanci’s first track on “Other Voices, Other Rooms” was Across the Great Divide, a song about the divide between life and death.  It was sung from the perspective of a person who was nearing the end of her life and was written by northern California folksinger, Kate Wolf, who had died of leukemia in 1986.  Shortly after Kate’s death and as a tribute to her, Nanci wrote a song I noted earlier, Ford Econoline, which she based partly on Kate’s life.  The concept of "Other Voices, Other Rooms" had been floating around in Nanci's head for a while, but Kate's passing was the impetus for the decision to record the album after Nanci had discussed the idea in late 1992 with her near-neighbor in Nashville, Emmylou Harris.  

Nanci had written and sung about her personal experiences often during her career, as I've noted.  But she decided to record one of her most personally endearing songs, Tecumseh Valley, on the cover album, "Other Voices, Other Rooms."  Written by fellow Texan, Townes Van Zandt, the song is about perseverance in the face of extreme adversity and Nanci, who first heard Townes sing it when she was 14, admitted that it had helped her, when she was young, deal with her own dark times of personal challenge.  Townes claimed that Nanci's version of "Tecumseh Valley" was the best cover anyone had ever done of any of his songs. 

   
 
Above: The song that perhaps meant the most to her was one that she didn't even write.  This is from her 1993 "Other Voices, Other Rooms" concert video.
 
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Nanci’s follow-up album, “Flyer,” released in 1994, was probably her most personal album and the first in which all of the characters and settings were real, including in the title track, The Flyer.  It was also her biggest seller, nudging out “Other Voices, Other Rooms.”  The album and its predecessor would be the commercial pinnacles of Nanci’s career.

She continued recording and touring through the late 1990s and early 2000s, though at a diminishing pace as she battled a growing number of health problems including periodic depression, an affliction not uncommon to those who are reflective and sentient, as she often was.  Nanci was also diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996 and thyroid cancer in 1998, then developed a rare syndrome that reduced the flexibility in her fingers.  Along with her physical ailments, and like so many other songwriters, her ability to write songs diminished as she got older and she developed a long-term case of writer’s block, which resulted in a lack of focus in her later albums.  She released her final album in 2012 and stopped touring altogether shortly afterwards, mainly for health reasons.  During her final years, and always a private person, she gradually withdrew from the public spotlight.

Though she lived in Nashville, Nanci always proudly embraced her Texas roots – but perhaps more so earlier in her career than later.  Like the contradiction of being a private person who wrote and performed very personal songs, she was an intriguing contradiction of rural, old-school Texas (with songs like West Texas Sun and Trouble in the Fields) and, on the other hand, unabashed liberalism (with songs like It's a Hard Life Wherever You Go and One Blade Shy of a Sharp Edge).  She had opposed the Vietnam War when she was young and yet at her concerts often wore a large “LBJ” button, referring to President Lyndon Baines Johnson, the U.S. president from Texas whose administration was synonymous with the war. 

Those contradictions perhaps reflected the divergent political beliefs of her liberal mother and conservative father, a growing separation that ultimately led to their divorce when Nanci was seven.  It was also a contradiction that perplexed and intrigued me and, I'm sure, many others in her relatively small but dedicated coterie of diehard fans.

     
 
 
 
Above: Here's the entire 84-minute video of her "Other Voices, Other Rooms" concert, performed in Austin in April 1993.
 
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Nanci's Albums:  1991 - 1999

After "Late Night Grande Hotel" in 1991, she changed recording labels to Elektra and returned to her folk/country roots.

       
   
 

1991:  Late Night Grande Hotel

 

 

1993:  Other Voices, Other Rooms

 

   
 

1994:  Flyer

 

 

1997:  Blue Roses From the Moons

 

   
 

1998:  Other Voices, Too

 

 

1999:  The Dust Bowl Symphony

 


My Life with Nanci Through the 1990s

Music is probably my greatest passion in life.  I can do without a lot of things – a wife, children, nice clothes, good looks (as I’ve proven) – but I never want to be without music.  And the artist who I listened to the most for over 10 years, throughout the 1990s and well into the early 2000s, was Nanci Griffith. 

I listened to a lot of music from a lot of different artists during that time, but Nanci was my mainstay and I played her nearly two dozen albums in a constant rotation.  Her songs were like an old friend and I never tired of them.  One reason I probably connected so well with Nanci and her songs was because she was very independent and, except for a brief marriage, spent almost her entire life alone without a spouse or children, having to rely almost entirely on herself.  I'm very much the same way, I'd like to think.  She preferred doing things her own way and, being an old curmudgeon, so do I.

In May 1995, I was driving across America on one of my many solo cross-country road trips and spent an evening near Lubbock, Texas.  The small town of Lockney was nearby, which Nanci had mentioned on her 1988 live album, “One Fair Summer Evening.”  As she described during the intro to Trouble in the Fields, her ode to the plains farmers of the Great Depression years:

"Most of my mother’s family came from way out in west Texas in a little town called Lockney, which is somewhere close to Lubbock.  But not too close to Lubbock.  Nobody likes to be too close to Lubbock. 

But I had five great-uncles who were all farmers during the Great Depression.  And after the Great Depression, four of them sold off their family farms and they bought liquor stores and dry cleaning businesses, you know, getting ready for the oil boom.  But one great-uncle, my great-uncle Tooty, never sold his farm and he pushed a plow for almost 80 years.  And he’s still living out there in Lockney, Texas and the next song is a tune that I wrote for him and his wife, my great-aunt Minnie May. 

And my great-aunt Minnie May said that surviving the Great Depression on a farm was not easy, and she understands why the young farmers nowadays are having such a hard time, because she went through it herself.  The dust blew so hard during the Great Depression on her farm that she was afraid to go to sleep at night, because she was afraid the dust would blow so hard one night that she’d wake up in the morning and find herself living in Oklahoma.  And she, by God, didn’t want to live in Oklahoma.”

 
 
 
Above:  Lockney, Texas during my brief visit in 1995. 

I always loved that introduction no matter how many times I heard it.  Lockney was about 15 miles away, so I drove out there the next morning, popped in a cassette tape (remember those?) of Nanci singing “Trouble in the Fields” and drove through the sleepy town while trying to imagine what living there during the Great Depression must’ve been like.

Nanci battled occasional depression later in her career, as I mentioned, and four years after my visit to Lockney her music helped me through my own difficult time.  My mother died in 1999 and in the months afterward I sort of shut down, just wanting to be alone with my thoughts.  I even stopped going to work for a long stretch.  Holed up in my apartment, I listened to Nanci’s music often during that dark time and her words, songs and voice comforted me and helped me through it.  I never had the opportunity to thank Nanci for that, which is one reason I decided to create this webpage, so Nancy, wherever you are, thank you.

And while I was never a Nanci groupie, I did see her in concert – three times, in fact.  I’ve attended dozens of concerts from a myriad of artists over the years but, usually being too cheap to spring for a ticket, I prefer going to free concerts from local artists.  Once in a very blue moon, though (as she might say), I fork over money to see a touring artist like Nanci Griffith.  In fact, I’ve seen her in concert more than any other singer – even more than the previously-mentioned James Taylor (twice), the Eagles and Emmylou Harris (once each).

   
 
 
Above:  Written by John Prine, "Speed of the Sound of Loneliness" became a standard at her concerts.  This is from her 1993 "Other Voices, Other Rooms" concert video.
  ..

The first time I saw Nanci in concert was during her 1995 “Flyer” tour when she came to Oregon and played at the sold-out Schnitzer Concert Hall, a grand old theatre in downtown Portland.  It’s been over 25 years but I vividly remember sitting there during the middle of the song, Speed of the Sound of Loneliness – which, of all the songs Nanci ever sang, is among my favorites – and thinking, “Life just can’t get any better than this.”  In a break between two songs during her performance, Nanci saluted Oregon for having recently rejected Measure 9, an anti-gay referendum (she was a long-time supporter of the LGBTQ community even before it had a name).  It was a wonderful concert. 

Four years later, during her “Dust Bowl Symphony” tour, she played an unforgettable outdoor concert at a winery a few miles south of Portland.  Of all the concerts I’ve ever attended, that was my absolute favorite.  It was a beautiful evening in July and I got there early and grabbed a good spot on the grass near the stage.  A few thousand of us sat on a lovely hillside overlooking the beautiful Willamette Valley on the grounds of the winery and there, amidst the vineyards, Nanci and her small band played on a stage for two hours as the sun set and then into the evening.  It was perfect.

The next year, in the summer of 2000, I attended what would be my final Nanci Griffith concert, at the recently-opened Oregon Garden in Silverton, south of Portland and another beautiful setting.  Her final song that evening, as it was during many of her concerts, was The Wing and the Wheel, which is about separation and loneliness and a song that had been inspired by two of her friends.

   
 
 
Above:  The historic Paramount Theater in Austin, where Nanci's "Other Voices, Other Rooms" video was filmed in 1993.  I shot this in 2001 during one of my many cross-country road trips.

The memories of those blissful concerts will live with me forever.

Nanci released fewer albums through the early 2000s and stopped recording altogether after 2012, so I gradually shifted my listening to other artists.  I hadn’t heard her music in a few years when I learned on Friday of her sudden death.  A thoughtful, intelligent and feeling person with a heart as big as Texas, Nanci left us much too soon at age 68. 

Nanci was the great friend and compadre who I never met.  But rather than dwell on my sadness of her passing, I want to celebrate the joy which Nanci brought to me and many others around the world with her wonderful music, so I’ve posted some of her songs on this webpage.  I’ve also posted two videos of her concerts that I bought many years ago on VHS videotape, "One Fair Summer Evening" and "Other Voices, Other Rooms," which I digitized so I could share them with others.

I hope you enjoy the songs of Nanci Griffith as much as I have.  May her wonderful music and spirit live forever.

 

 
 
 
 

 

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