Nanci Griffith, who built a much-respected career as a singer-songwriter across country and folk music, has died.
According to the Washington Post, Griffith’s management company, Gold Mountain Entertainment, confirmed her death in a statement on Friday (Aug. 13) but did not reveal her cause of death, saying, “It was Nanci’s wish that no further formal statement or press release happen for a week following her passing.”
The singer was 68 years old at the time of her death.
Griffith was born on July 6, 1953, in Seguin, Texas. According to an interview with NPR in 2007, she began to learn to play guitar at the age of 8 while watching an instructional TV show in Austin. She started performing in small clubs and entering songwriting competitions in her teens, helping to hone the haunting vocal style and folk-influenced acoustic guitar stylings that would characterize much of her career. She termed her music “folkabilly” for its unique blend of influences.
She launched her recording career in 1978 with There’s a Light Beyond These Woods, and she went on to release a long string of respected albums in the ’80s, ’90s and into the 2000s, with highlights including 1987’s Lone Star State of Mind, which gave her her first commercial chart success when it peaked at No. 23 on Billboard‘s Top Country Albums chart. It also gave Griffith her first Top 40 hit with the title song, which reached No. 36 on Billboard‘s Hot Country Singles chart.
One of the other songs from that album was “From a Distance,” which did not chart for Griffith. It became a career single for Bette Midler when the pop singer released her own version of the track in 1990.
Griffith scored one more Top 40 hit with “I Knew Love” in 1988, but her flirtation with more commercial country did not last. She won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album in 1994 for Other Voices, Other Rooms, which featured her covering the songs of artists who had influenced her writing. The album also included guest appearances from Emmylou Harris, John Prine, Arlo Guthrie, Guy Clark and more.
Griffith also wrote songs that scored hits for other artists, including Kathy Mattea, who landed her breakthrough hit in 1986 with “Love at the Five and Dime,” peaking at No. 3. Suzy Bogguss reached No. 9 in 1991 with her cover of Griffith’s “Outbound Plane.”
Griffith recorded and released music through 2012, when she released her final studio album, Intersections, via her own Hell No record label. Details on her later life are few, but she appeared not to have recorded or toured after 2012.
Bogguss and Chely Wright were among those who turned to social media to pay their respects to Griffith after news of her death broke.
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May they rest in peace …