Nanci Griffith (1953–2021). Nancinet (1994–200?)
It was listening to Vin Scelsa’s show Idiot’s Delight on WNEW FM radio out of New York at the tail end of the 1980s that I first heard Nanci Griffith’s music. Vin loved Nanci. Her album Storms had just been released. After listening to a few songs on Vin’s show I rushed out to my local music store to add the CD to my collection.
Nanci was from Texas, Buddy Holly territory, I believe. If you look on Apple Radio these days, you’ll find Nanci’s music classified as pop, country, singer/songwriter. It was probably all those things, but I think of Nanci as a folk singer. She wrote and performed songs about the trevails of common people. Not only was she a wonderful songwriter, but she was also a gifted interpreter of other’s songs.
It didn’t take long before several of her earlier albums would also take turns spinning on my stereo.
A few years later I joined Nancinet, a listserv of devoted Nanci Griffith fans. I can’t remember how I stumbled upon this treasure, but a treasure it was. From these knowledgable, passionate people I learned a lot — not just about Nanci’s music, but also about other artists. My musical universe grew exponentially.
I was never one of the Nancinet insiders, but I did have one correspondent with whom I connected. Marcia and I both shared an affinity for the band The Strawbs, which is how I think we originally began to write to each other. We sent each other music the other hadn’t been aware of. This was before MP3 or other digital formats, so we exchanged CDs in the mail.
I learned a lot about Marcia’s life. When she travelled to visit another Nancinetter — whom I think she was hoping to connect romantically — I read all about it. But over time we began to run out of news for each other and our correspondence slowed to a crawl. Then one day I got an email from a friend of Marcia’s informing me that Marcia had died. That news shocked me and made me question the nature of friendship. Can you be friends with someone you’ve never met? I wondered. The answer I decided was, indeed you can. Marcia and I had bonded over music, catalyzed by the work of Nanci Griffith.
In retrospect, it is amazing how vibrant the Nancinet community was. For at least a half dozen years it was a regular contributor to my email inbox. But as George Harrison observed, all things must pass. As the Internet blossomed like a mushroom cloud, and information began flooding our digital lives, Nancinet began to fade away. Did it become irrelevant in our new Information Age? Maybe. Or maybe information overload caused us to tune it out.
I thought about the Nancinet recently when I learned, long after the fact, that Nanci Griffith had died in August 2021. It shocked me that such a vital artist, who had given so much to my life, was no longer with us. But even more it shocked me that I had heard nothing about her death before I accidentally uncovered the news months later. I thought then about the Nancinet community. And I missed those folks. It’s to them that I dedicate this story.