Nanci Griffith

Nanci Griffith is a critically acclaimed country/pop singer who helps keep alive the

age-old folk tradition of telling stories through songs.

Nanci Caroline Griffith was born 46 years ago today in Austin, Texas. Her parents loved

music and taught their daughter to appreciate it. Griffith began playing guitar as a

youngster and was performing in clubs by the time she was 14.

Griffith attended the University of Texas and put her musical ambitions on hold to teach

kindergarten in the mid-'70s. In 1977, she decided to focus her energies on being a

professional musician. Early in her career, Griffith won a songwriting award at the

Kerrville (Texas) Folk Festival, which landed her a chance to record a debut LP for local

label BF Deal. The album, There's a Light Beyond These Woods (1978), attracted

attention because of Griffith's sweet voice.

She began building a fanbase by gigging throughout the U.S. in festivals and bars and

by releasing two more LPs, 1982's Poet in My Window and 1985's Once in a

Very Blue Moon. The albums showcased Griffith's insightful, confessional

songwriting.

After moving to Nashville, Griffith began making a dent in the country charts. The

Grammy Award–nominated Last of the True Believers (1986) charted and

received a great deal of acclaim within the Nashville community. And other artists, such

as Kathy Mattea and Suzy Bogguss, recorded Griffith's songs. Mattea had a #3 country

smash with "Love at the Five & Dime."

But Griffith grew frustrated with her lack of acceptance on country radio and began

recording more pop-oriented material in Los Angeles. Her major-label debut, 1987's

Lone Star State of Mind (MCA), featured the song "From a Distance," which Bette

Midler later made into an international smash. Griffith's frustrations with the label began

with its refusal to release the track as a single in the U.S. — it was released in

Ireland and helped make Griffith a superstar there. The album's title track was Griffith's

first top-40 hit on the Billboard country charts.

Griffith eventually moved further into rock territory with 1989's Storms, helped by

veteran rock producer Glyn Johns. The LP, one of Griffith's biggest sellers, featured

appearances by ex-Eagle Bernie Leadon, Phil Everly, Albert Lee and others.

Late Night Grande Hotel, produced by Rod Argent and Peter Van Hook, was less

popular. Griffith returned to her roots on 1993's Other Voices, Other Rooms,

which featured such folk songs as "Do Re Mi," some performed with peers, including Iris

DiMent and Emmylou Harris. The album won the 1994 Grammy Award for Best

Contemporary Folk Album.

Flyer (1994) featured help from such rockers as the BoDeans' Sam Llanas and

Kurt Neumann, Mark Knopfler, Peter Buck, Larry Mullen Jr., Adam Clayton and the Indigo

Girls. Blue Roses From the Moons (1997) contained reworkings of some of

Griffith's best-loved songs, including "Gulf Coast Highway," on which she dueted with

Hootie & The Blowfish's Darius Rucker.

Last year's Other Voices, Too (A Trip Back to Bountiful) included covers of Richard

Thompson's "Wall of Death" (RealAudio excerpt) and Sonny

Curtis' "I Fought the Law," on which the composer also played.

Other birthdays: Gene Chandler, 62; Richard Elswit (Dr. Hook), 54; John Keeble

(Spandau Ballet), 40; Tim Bricheno (Sisters Of Mercy), 36; Michael Grant (Musical

Youth), 30; Bill Haley (1925-1981); and Phyllis Hyman (1949-1995).