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Nanci Griffith, Grammy-winning folk singer-songwriter, dies at 68

A smiling woman in a white shirt and red scarf holds a guitar as she stands at a microphone.
Nanci Griffith performs during the ACLU Freedom Concert Oct. 4, 2004, in New York.
(Associated Press)

Nanci Griffith, the Grammy-winning folk singer-songwriter from Texas whose literary songs like “Love at the Five and Dime” celebrated the South, has died. She was 68.

Her management company, Gold Mountain Entertainment, said Griffith died Friday but did not provide a cause of death.

“It was Nanci’s wish that no further formal statement or press release happen for a week following her passing,” Gold Mountain Entertainment said in a statement.

Griffith worked closely with other folk singers, helping the early careers of artists like Lyle Lovett and Emmylou Harris. She had a high-pitched voice, and her singing was effortlessly smooth with a twangy Texas accent as she sang about Dust Bowl farmers and empty Woolworth general stores.

“We are aware that there might be some pushback, but I’m confident we will be on the right side of history” the Coachella and Stagecoach promoter said Thursday.

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Griffith also was known for her recording of “From a Distance,” which would later become a well-known Bette Midler tune. The song appeared on Griffith’s first major-label release, “Lone Star State of Mind,” in 1987.

Her 1993 album “Other Voices, Other Rooms” earned a Grammy for contemporary folk album. Named after a Truman Capote novel, the album features Griffith singing classic folk songs with Harris, John Prine, Arlo Guthrie and Guy Clark.

In 2008, Griffith won the Lifetime Achievement Trailblazer Award from the Americana Music Association.

Country singer Suzy Bogguss, who had a Top 10 hit with Griffith’s song “Outbound Plane,” posted a tribute of her friend on Instagram.

“I feel blessed to have many memories of our times together along with most everything she ever recorded. I’m going to spend the day reveling in the articulate masterful legacy she’s left us,” Bogguss wrote.

Darius Rucker called Griffith one of his idols and said she was why he moved to Nashville.

“Singing with her was my favorite things to do,” he wrote on Twitter.

Keeping in line with the tradition of folk music, Griffith often wrote social commentary into her songs; “It’s a Hard Life Wherever You Go” was an antiracist ode while in “Trouble in the Fields” tackled the economic impact on rural farmers in the 1980s.

“I wrote it because my family were farmers in West Texas during the Great Depression,” Griffith told the Los Angeles Times in a 1990 interview. “It was written basically as a show of support for my generation of farmers.”


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