We’re deeply sad to learn of the passing of singer-songwriter Nanci Griffith. She was 68. No cause of death has been released yet, only a statement from her management company, Gold Mountain Entertainment, that reads: “It was Nanci’s wish that no further formal statement or press release happen for a week following her passing.”
Since debuting in 1978 with her album There’s a Light Beyond These Woods, Griffith gifted us with many beautiful songs, often written like short stories or dynamic moments in time. She was a folksinger who leaned country, and as a Texas native, she often sang about the beauty she found in her home state (the song “Gulf Coast Highway,” for instance, includes the line “some bluebonnet spring,” a lyric about springtime flowers that she often took time to describe in concert before playing the song). Today we’d call her music Americana, but back in the 1970s and ’80s she was often labeled Texas Country or Texas Folk – a way to distinguish her work from the music coming out of Nashville, while also honoring her attachment to her home state. Griffith’s own term for her music was “folkabilly.”
Griffith collaborated with many artists over the years, including John Prine, Tom Russell, Emmylou Harris, Darius Rucker (her duet partner on “Gulf Coast Highway”), Jimmy Webb, and members of Buddy Holly’s Crickets. Her 1994, covers album Other Voices, Other Rooms won her a Grammy, and her songs were also recorded by such artists as Kathy Mattea, Suzy Bogguss, and Bette Midler.
Taking a deep dive into her album catalog is always rewarding. But to get you started, below are 6 standout Nanci Griffith songs that will ring in our heads for years to come.
“Love at the Five and Dime”
A beautiful story that builds (as she describes during the intro) out of moments from Griffith’s Texas upbringing.
“The Speed of the Sound of Loneliness”
Her duet with John Prine, which she included on Other Voices, Other Rooms.
A duet with fellow Texas singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt on one of his best-known songs, which she also included on Other Voices, Other Rooms.
“Once in a Very Blue Moon”
One of her signature songs, here recorded for Austin City Limits, where she was a frequent performer.
“Gulf Coast Highway“
Another song that includes images of her Texas roots, including that line about “some bluebonnet spring,” referring to flowers that bloom along Texas highways every spring.
“From a Distance”
Griffith didn’t write this song (it was penned by Julie Gold), but she put her signature on it, including her version on her album Lone Star State of Mind (which saw her veer more toward commercial country music). Bette Midler went on to have a bigger hit with this song, but its essence remains rooted with Nanci. Here she is performing it at a festival in Norway.
Learn More About the Colorado Sound:
Soundboard Newsletter – subscribe to get information on live shows and win prizes
Torch & Twang – listen to our special Americana show every Sunday, hosted by Benji
105 Days of Summer – check this page all summer long for ticket giveaways
Concert Calendar – get info and ticket links for upcoming live shows
Become a Sustaining Member – learn how you can be a part of the Colorado Sound