Singer-songwriter Nanci Griffith died today (Aug. 13) at the age of 68, according to her label Gold Mountain Entertainment. Born in Seguin, Texas, in 1953, the folk songwriter and performer grew up in Austin before releasing her 1978 debut There’s a Light Beyond These Woods and eventually spending time in Nashville.
Her music career included winning a Grammy in 1994 for her ninth album Other Voices, Other Rooms, providing a breakthrough hit for Kathy Mattea in 1986 with the single “Love at the Five and Dime,” getting honored with a Lifetime Achievement Trailblazer Award from the Americana Music Association, and releasing 18 studio albums. Her final release was Intersection in 2012, which Paste’s Holly Gleason called “a more aggressive, full-frontal reckoning from the woman who was once the sugary-voiced sweetheart of Lone Star coffeehouses.”
Griffith was also an outspoken activist and philanthropist, traveling to Vietnam and Laos with the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation before dedicating her 2004 album Hearts in Mind to “the memory of every soldier and every civilian lost to the horrors of war.” She was affiliated with the international non-profit Mines Advisory Group, and never shied from speaking up about the injustices she saw in the world, from racism to economic hardship, both in her songs and her life.
“Nanci Griffith was a master songwriter who took every opportunity to champion kindred spirits, including Vince Bell, Elizabeth Cook, Iris DeMent, Julie Gold, Robert Earl Keen, Lyle Lovett, Eric Taylor and Townes Van Zandt,” said Kyle Young, CEO, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. “Her voice was a clarion call, at once gentle and insistent. Her brilliant album The Last of the True Believers is a template for what is now called Americana music, and her Grammy-winning Other Voices, Other Rooms is a compelling guide to 20th-century folk songs. Nanci offered gifts that no one else could give.”