R.I.P. Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Nanci Griffith


Nanci Griffith in 2011

Nanci Griffith in 2011
Photo: Rick Diamond (Getty Images)

Nanci Griffith has died. A veteran songwriter and musician, Griffith was a fixture of the Nashville music scene, with a style that often hybridized folk and country music traditions. Griffith won a Grammy in 1994 for her album Other Voices, Other Rooms, in which she covered the works of numerous artists who had inspired and influenced her own songwriting. Per Variety, Griffith died this week; no cause of death has been revealed. She was 68.

Originally from Texas, Griffith came up as a folk singer before branching out into other styles; she also gained prominence as a songwriter, with covers of her songs (including Kathy Mattea’s version of “Love At The Five And Dime” and Suzy Bogguss’ “Outbound Plane”) rising more than once to the top of the country charts. Griffith herself had a long and sometimes difficult relationship with mainstream country, as it re-invented itself in the late 1970s; while she was embraced by the Nashville community—collaborating frequently with the likes of John Prine, James Hooker, Arlo Guthrie, the Indigo Girls, and many more—her music often struggled to receive play on “conventional” country stations.

In tracking the evolutions of Griffith’s career, it’s helpful to look at the labels who released the 18 studio albums she ultimately released. Her MCA period (from 1987 to 1991) marks a strong effort to attempt to move toward country (and even a bit of pop), marked by albums like Lone Star State Of Mind and Late Night Grande Hotel. Her move to Elektra in 1993, which kicked off with the aforementioned Other Voices, saw a return to her folk roots. Throughout all these eras, though, Griffith’s music was marked by her wistful, often-sweet lyricism, and her clear, undeniable voice.

Griffith has been tributed this week by many of her past collaborators, and her ever-present admirers, in the folk and country scenes. Darius Rucker mourned her on Twitter, writing that “I lost one of my idols” and that “Singing with her was my favorite thing to do.” Austin City Limits, which hosted Griffith 8 times across her career, wrote that, “She was a beautiful songwriter and a beacon in the Texas music scene for decades.”

Griffith released her final album, Intersection, in 2012.