Texas singer-songwriter Nanci Griffith has died: NPR

Nanci Griffith performs in London in 2012. She died in Nashville on Friday at the age of 68. Gaelle Beri / Redferns via Getty Images hide caption

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Gaelle Beri / Redferns via Getty Images

Nanci Griffith performs in London in 2012. She died in Nashville on Friday at the age of 68.

Gaelle Beri / Redferns via Getty Images

Nanci Griffith, a Texas-born singer-songwriter who was celebrated in folk and country music circles for her crystal voice and storytelling skills, died in Nashville on Friday at the age of 68.

The news was confirmed by its management company, Gold Mountain Entertainment.

No cause of death or further information was given, allegedly at Griffith’s behest: “It is Nanci’s wish that no statement or press release be made for a week after her death.”

Griffith has written for himself and other singers

Griffiths was known for her storytelling songwriting skills and producing memorable songs such as “Late Night Grand Hotel” and “It’s a Hard Life Wherever You Go”. Her songs also proved successful with other singers: Kathy Mattea landed a country top 5 hit with “Love at the Five and Dime”, while Suzy Bogguss landed the country top 10 with “Outbound Plane” by Griffith with Tom Russell cracked.

She was also known as an interpreter of songs by other writers, who performed in a light, clear voice. It was closely linked to “From a Distance,” a Julie Gold song that was a huge hit for Bette Midler. Other Voices, Other Rooms, a 1993 album devoted solely to songs by Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, John Prine and others, had guest appearances by Dylan and Prine and earned Griffith a Grammy Award in 1994.

She found inspiration in Loretta Lynn

Nanci Caroline Griffith was born on July 6, 1954 in Seguin, Texas, a town in the Hill Country near San Antonio, and grew up in Austin. As a teenager, she began performing as a singer, inspired by country music icons like Loretta Lynn. “She was the first singer I ever saw write her own dad gum songs and play her own rhythm guitar,” Griffith said of Lynn when she performed at Austin City Limits in 1989.

Griffith continued to perform while attending the University of Texas and working as a kindergarten teacher after hours. In 1976 she married her fellow singer-songwriter Eric Anderson. In 1982 they got divorced.

In 1978 she won the New Folk Competition at the Kerrville Folk Festival, a rite of passage among Texan folk music artists. After early albums with well-respected roots music labels such as Philo, Griffith moved to Nashville in 1985, where she enjoyed success with major labels such as MCA and Elektra in the 1980s and 90s and worked with artists such as John Prine, Emmylou Harris and Lyle Lovett.

Griffith is honored by her colleagues

She survived attacks of breast cancer in 1996 and thyroid cancer in 1998, and pursued her career seriously through most of the 2000s. Griffith received the Americana Music Association’s 2008 Lifetime Achievement Trailblazer Award and in 2012 released her last studio album, Intersection.

Popular and country luminaries reacted quickly when news of Griffith’s death broke. “I feel blessed to have many memories of our time together, along with almost everything she has ever recorded,” wrote Suzy Bogguss on Instagram. “I will spend the day indulging in the clear masterful legacy she left us.”

Nanci Griffith on the mountain stage

Rosanne Cash remembered her on Twitter and posted a video of a performance of “Trouble in the Fields” that Griffith had given at a show on New York’s Bottom Line in the 1990s.

“It was – is – stunning,” said Cash.

Darius Rucker also paid tribute to Griffith on Twitter.

“I lost one of my idols. One of the reasons I’m in Nashville,” he wrote. “I was blown away when I heard Marie and Omie for the first time. And singing with her was my favorite pastime.”

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