We remember folk and celtic singer Grace Griffith (1956-2021)

We have received the sad news that singer Grace Griffith has died at the age of 64.

Grace Griffith was raised in a family of ten children on a small farm in Southern Maryland. At a young age she began singing and accompanying herself on guitar playing in small coffeehouse stages, mentored by her sister Maura. Grace’s parents encouraged her to follow a practical career. Putting her musical hobby to one side she graduated from the University of Maryland in 1978 with a degree in physical therapy and embarked on a career as a physical therapist. Several years after her college studies she was invited to sing for a local Irish band in Washington DC called The Hags and toured the college circuit for two years. Her successor in that band was to become the famed singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter. In 1987 Griffith formed a duo called Hazlewood with songwriter Susan Graham White. They produced some independent releases and ultimately appeared at the 1991 Philadelphia Folk Festival.

Passing Through

Passing Through

Returning to her celtic roots Grace formed the East Coast Celtic group Connemara with fiddler and arranger Cathy Palmer and harpist Tracie Brown. They released 2 albums, Beyond Horizon in 1993 and Siren Song in 1995. In 1993 as a solo artist Griffith released her debut album Every Hue and Shade which came out on her own independent label.

Eva Cassidy adored the music of Grace Griffith. With her friend Elaine Stonebraker she went to see her perform in Farthing’s Ordinary Tavern in St. Mary’s City, Maryland’s colonial capital. Eva admired Grace’s musical style and her controlled way of singing and she would attend her concerts whenever she got the chance. The respect was mutual. Grace had heard about this singer “who could really wail” and she quickly placed the familiar face when she witnessed Eva’s performance at the Wammie’s.

Eva Cassidy

Eva Cassidy

In 1996 Eva was too ill to leave the house and her mother Barbara thought it would be a nice idea to invite Grace Griffith to their home. Grace found Barbara’s message on her answering machine: “My daughter Eva is very ill, and it’s all terribly sad and Eva loves your singing and would appreciate it very much if you could come and sing for her.” Grace immediately called back and made an appointment to visit the Cassidys with her friend and colleague Marcy Marxer.

Grace Griffith

Grace Griffith

When Grace and Marcy arrived Eva was sitting in her wheelchair in the living room, having summoned all of her strength to leave her bed. Dan, who had just finished his violin parts on ‘I Know You By Heart’, and Hugh (playing cello) joined them. It turned out to be a glorious autumn afternoon full of beautiful music. Eva was unable to play or even move but she used her last reserves of energy to sing with her “angel brigade”, as she called them. Their voices like a heavenly choir, Grace, Marcy and Eva  harmonised their collective repertoire of folk songs.

sailing

sailing

After the release of her album Grace, she sent a tape of Eva Cassidy’s Live At Blues Alley album to her record company and the rest is history. On that tape was a recording of ‘Fields of Gold’. That song became Cassidy’s hit in her posthumous career. “All the colors of the rainbow, all life’s palette of beauty and sadness and sweet passion and eternity — it was all there in that voice that came from that heart and those hands” said Griffith in an interview when talking about Eva. At the memorial service for Eva at Greenbelt Park, Griffith performed a haunting Celtic-tinged version of ‘Golden Thread’.

Chris Biondo, Lenny Williams (of the Eva Cassidy band) produced Grace Griffith’s album My Life in 2006

After battling Parkinson’s disease for more than 15 years, Griffith recorded Passing Through in 2014. The tracks were mostly recorded a cappella, with generally sparse instruments added later.

Grace Griffith died on June 5, 2021. She was 64.

‘My Life’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUG3mc-sQeg

2 responses to “We remember folk and celtic singer Grace Griffith (1956-2021)”

  1. Thank you for this sweet appreciation. I’m a folk-DJ and a long-time friend of Grace’s, and she of course was the one to introduce me and my audiences to Eva’s music.

  2. David Gartner says:

    Hi. That was a very nice tribute to Grace Griffith. I particularly liked the YouTube video link at the end of the article. Through Grace’s efforts, the world was very fortunate to learn about Eva Cassidy and her incredible voice and musical legacy. Thank you. David & Kate

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