Grammy winner Nanci Griffith, who was a recipient of the Americana Lifetime Achievement Award, died Aug. 13 at age 68. The multi-faceted singer, songwriter and musician was from Austin, Texas. Born on July 6, 1953, Griffith will be posthumously inducted into the Texas Songwriters Hall of Fame in February 2022.

Her budding talent was encouraged during childhood by her multi-talented performer parents who had engaged her in theatre, music and literature by age 14. After Griffith’s senior prom, her serious boyfriend, John, was killed in a motorcycle accident. Even though Griffith grieved immensely for her love lost, she turned to writing in her despair.

Griffith continued nurturing her creative passions through her college years at the University of Texas. The Folk and Country musician’s artistic expression was ever-changing, yet always persistent. When Griffith began teaching Kindergarten in the mid-1970s she called upon her versatility and creative talents.

In 1977 Griffith decided to make music her main career focus. Her debut album, “There’s a Light Beyond These Woods,” was recorded in 1978 by a local label after Griffith won an award at the Kerrville Folk Festival. Her 1982 album, “Poet in My Window,” and her 1985 album, “Once in a Very
Blue Moon,” were recorded while Griffith toured North America making frequent television and club appearances.
In 1986 Griffith made the leap to join the Nashville music scene where she formed her backing band, the Blue Moon Orchestra, named for one of her earlier albums. She soon began touring and releasing albums, including the Grammy nominated “Last of the True Believers.” The album performed reasonably well by Nashville standards, but when Griffith released “Love at the Five and Dime” Nashville finally heard her. The song reached No. 3 on Country charts.

Commercial label MCA signed Griffith, and in 1987 MCA debuted, “Lone Star State of Mind.” The album showcased a version of the ballad-writing artist that Nashville music gurus had not yet seen. She made the charts with a few songs through the remainder of the 1980s, such as “Trouble in the
Fields,” “Cold Hearts/Closed Minds” and her Top 40 rendition of a Julie Gold song called “From a Distance,” later made into a Pop hit by Bette Midler. Griffith’s second top 40 hit, “I Knew Love,” followed in 1988.

Briefly disappointed with Nashville’s reaction to her work, Griffith decided to collaborate with rock producer Glyn Johns in MCA’s Los Angeles Pop music division. The 1989 release of Griffith’s Pop album, “Storms,” was critically deemed her most successful album yet. Although the Pop success was rewarding for Griffith, her heart and soul were in Americana. She had straddled the line between several genres, but it was Country and Folk that defined her. In fact, Griffith herself called her version of Americana folkabilly.”

When Griffith returned to Country music in 1993 with her 10th album, Griffith honored the artists who inspired and encouraged her by involving them in the recording of “Other Voices, Other Rooms.” Legendary artists, such as Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Frank Christian, Guy Clark and others, aided Griffith in a compilation of what she said was her personal favorite piece of work. The album reached number 54 on the Billboard charts and was a certified Gold record.


“Other Voices, Other Rooms” was awarded the 1994 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album. Griffith was awarded the Kate Wolf Memorial Award by the World Folk Music Association in 1995.

Despite her success, Griffith clearly was no stranger to pain. She was diagnosed in 1996 with breast cancer and in 1998, thyroid cancer. She was outspoken and opinionated for the causes she believed in and was an advocate and philanthropist for important social causes such as AIDs, cancer research and veteran PTSD.

Griffith recorded more than 20 albums during her 40-plus year career. In 2003 she performed on the Grand Ole Opry stage. Among her many accolades is the Americana Trailblazer Award presented to her in 2008 by the Americana Music Association. Griffith released her final album, “Intersection,” in 2012, effectively retiring from the music industry the following year.

Upon Griffith’s death, Suzy Bogguss, who had a top-10 single in 1992 with Griffith’s “Outbound Plane,” expressed her condolences on Instagram.

“My heart is aching. A beautiful soul that I love has left this earth,” she wrote. “I feel blessed to have many memories of our times together along with most everything she ever recorded.”

Actress Jamie Lee Curtis remembered Griffith on social media by quoting these timely and timeless lyrics from Griffith’s song, “It’s a Hard Life Wherever You Go.”

It’s a very hard life,” Griffith observed. “It’s a hard life wherever you go. If we poison our children with hatred, then the hard life is all that they’ll know, and there ain’t no place for these kids to go.

By Sasha Dunavant