Nanci Griffith, June 6, 1953-August 13, 2021
The first time I heard a Nanci Griffith tune, I didn’t know about Nanci Griffith. I was a country music listener at the time and I heard this incredible song by a new country singer, Kathy Mattea, and the song was “Love at the Five and Dime.”
Recent Kathy Mattea:
The first rendition of Kathy Mattea singing “Love at the Five and Dime.”:
The words and music were poignant. We didn’t have internet in the early 90’s so I just felt my way through music and eventually discovered Nanci Griffith. Her album “Other Voices, Other Rooms” became one of my most listened to albums. It was her gift/tribute to some of her favorite songwriters.
It gifted me with one of my favorite songs, “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness” and introduced me to John Prine. Yep, I was a little late but it’s better late than never.
Because of “Other Voices, Other Rooms,” I went on to discover other Nanci Griffith songs. She wrote so many evocative songs and portrayed them so subtly, but beautifully.
I was fortunate to have seen her in a small venue, probably some 15 years ago. Her sweetness and intelligence came forth.
And her songs were something special always as was her voice:
The lyrics to “Trouble in the Fields” always resonated with me for no comprehensible reason other than she could gift words with emotions:
And all this trouble in our fields
If this rain can fall, these wounds can heal
They’ll never take our native soil
But if we sell that new John Deere
And then we’ll work these crops with sweat and tears
You’ll be the mule I’ll be the plow
Come harvest time we’ll work it out
There’s still a lot of love, here in these troubled fieldsSongwriters: Nanci Griffith / Rick West
I am on vacation and chose to make that one without most electronics so my still-connected friend vacationing with me said this evening: “You heard about Nanci Griffith?”
And my heart plummeted as it seems to these days when an introduction like that is laid forth.
I didn’t vocalize the “oh” that swept upward.
I’ve been cooking on vacation rather than going out and dealing with Delta, so as I settled into the task of chopping onions and celery, I asked Alexa to play “Other Voices, Other Rooms.” I sang all of the songs by heart. And I shed tears because Nanci’s music was a huge part of my life. It’s hard to believe she’s gone and I’ll never have the opportunity to see her sing again. And, yes, I’m so glad that I did once see her. Her songs will always be a part of me, a huge part because she came to me when I was truly forming as a human being and her gentle spirit hopefully became a part of my psyche.
You may not have heard of Nanci Griffith but her heart and soul were bigger than the universe. I hope you seek out some of her songs. She was not mainstream, but I think that made her better, unique, irreplaceable.
Nanci died at 68, far too young. Godspeed Nanci.