Born on March 16, 1964, in Old Towne, Maine, Patty Griffin earned her claim to fame as a singer-songwriter known for her stripped-down folk music style. She was raised as the youngest child among seven siblings, next to the Penobscot Native American Reservation. When she was sixteen years old, she bought herself a guitar as an instrument to feed her hobby of singing and playing music. She had no intent to embark on a musical career at that time. It wouldn’t be until she was thirty years old, after ending a six-year marriage, that she’d begin to play in coffee houses in Boston, Massachusetts.
It would be during this time she was discovered by A&M Records. Through this label, she debuted on May 21, 1996, with her first studio album, Living with Ghosts. In 1998, it was followed by Flamingo Red, an album that featured a combination of mellow songs and high-tempo rock tunes. It wouldn’t be until 2013 that she’d record her third studio album, Silver Bell. After this, her contract with A&M Records ended. The album remained unreleased at that time.
After A&M Records, she signed up with ATO Records. Patty Griffin re-recorded her songs from Silver Bell, including “Making Pies,” “Mother of God,” Standing,” and “Top of the World.” Copies of the unreleased Silver Bell album were leaked and bootlegged before it was officially released in October 2013. After this, four additional albums were recorded and released, starting with 1000 Kisses in 2002, A Kiss in Time in 2003, Impossible Dream in 2004, and Children Running Through in 2007. Among these albums, Children Running Through was an album Griffin referred to as work that featured the kind of music she wanted to perform. As it turned out, The Americana Music Association was in agreement with this formula, recognizing it as Best Album. She also won Artist of the Year.
As a singer, Patty Griffin was in high demand as she performed a series of duets with other recording artists. In 2008, it was with Joshua Radin for “You Got Growing Up to Do.” With Dierks Bentley, she collaborated with “Beautiful World” in 2009. That same year had her record with Mavis Staples and the Tri-City Singers for a version of “Waiting for My Child to Come Home.” After collaborating with Staples, it was suggested to Griffin to make a gospel album. In 2010, she recorded and released Downtown Church. In 2011, it won a Best Traditional Gospel Album Grammy Award. It was also in 2010 that Patty Griffin embarked on a four-year romantic relationship with Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant.
During the summer of 2016, Patty Griffin noticed something was physically wrong with her. In October, she learned she had breast cancer. Upon this discovery, she canceled her remaining tour dates. Although she and Robert Plant were no longer a couple at that time, they still had a strong enough friendship that he took her place as a performer. It was during Emmylou Harris’ refugee relief tour that this happened. Griffin returned to her home in Austin, Texas, to take on this life-threatening battle.
Patty Griffin Legacy
She later won a Grammy Award again in 2019, this time for Best Folk Album for Patty Griffin. In total, she has eleven studio albums to her credit, along with three live albums. Not only has Patty Griffin earned a name for herself as a singer but as a songwriter as well. Several recording artists have benefited from her handiwork, cashing in on songs that she personally wrote and recorded herself. In addition to singing, songwriting, and playing music, she has appeared in several movies, usually as a performer, throughout the span of her music career. Much of her music has also been featured in an impressive collection on the big screen and in small screen productions.
Top 10 Patty Griffin Songs
#10 – Not Alone
From Patty Griffin’s debut album, “Not Alone” was a 1997 recording that was featured in the final scene and ending credits for the movie, Niagara, Niagara. It was also used at the end of a Crossing Jordan episode that was broadcast on October 29, 2001. In 2009, it was part of the soundtrack belonging to the television series, Without a Trace. It was again used on NCIS on January 15, 2013. “Not Alone,” despite not making a chart impression, was a beautiful mix of acoustic eeriness that deservedly crept its way in as a fan favorite.
# 9 – Hourglass
“Hourglass” was a song that mixed the world of blues and jazz in what had a gypsy-like charm to it. It was a remarkable song of reflection as Patty Griffin used her experience as a breast cancer survivor to bring out the best musical part about herself in a song that’s worth sitting down and listening to. Take it all in and let the hours of time feel like it’s come to a standstill.
# 8 – Wherever You Wanna Go
In 2013, Patty Griffin released American Kid, along with the song, “Wherever You Wanna Go.” The songs from the album came as an inspiration to her after dealing with the death of her father. The heartbreak of loss when losing that loved one came through with this song, along with the message of hope that came with it. When it comes to dealing with grief that ends with a hint of promise, “Wherever You Wanna Go” is it.
#7 – Truth
Originally recorded on Silver Bell in 2013, “Truth” became a song the Dixie Chicks made famous. It wasn’t the first time the country stars have covered the songwriting genius of Patty Griffin. The album itself took time to release due to issues that developed with A&M Records but it finally made it through for the listening enjoyment of fans, as well as recording artists, who found “Truth” and Silver Bell nothing short of fantastic. Upbeat and catchy, it’s hard not to get caught up in its brand of “Truth” for its message and entertainment value.
# 6 – Heavenly Day
On the US Billboard Adult Alternative Airplay chart, “Heavenly Day” became a number seventeen hit for Patty Griffin in 2007. It came from her award-winning album, Children Running Through. According to music critics, “Heavenly Day” was a song that had Griffin’s voice shine through for the amazing talent she possesses. The evocation of good times seemed gospel-like, which appealed to scores of fans who were in agreement this is an all-time favorite.
“Heavenly Day” has repeatedly been featured in a series of commercials and episodes of different television programs, including Chevy’s Volt series, Smallville, and Haunting of Hill House. For Griffin, the inspiration behind “Heavenly Day” actually came from her dog as she wrote this tune for it as a happy, feel-good number.
#5 – Rider of Days
From the 2015 album, Servant of Love, “Rider of Days” was a song that presented Patty Griffin’s incredible voice right after the guitars open up to a slow burn that’s worth the listen from start to finish. There’s a reason why Griffin’s songwriting skills have been considered top-notch and why so many artists have covered her work over the years. Like a proud victory lap around the track after finishing the race, “Rider of Days’ was a song of triumph without losing focus on what the race was about.
#4 – Beautiful World (featuring Dierks Bentley)
In 2010, “Beautiful World” was a duet Dierks Bentley and Patty Griffin performed that became a Grammy Award nomination for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals. Although the win went to “I Told You So” by Carrie Underwood and Randy Travis, “Beautiful World” remained a major favorite among fans of country music. Even though the song from his album, Feel the Fire, did not appear on any music charts, it was enough to win critical acclaim to earn it a favorable nod.
# 3 – River
“River” was Patty Griffin’s first recording after her battle with the breast cancer diagnosis she received in 2016. Released in 2019, along with her self-titled album, became one of the best vocal performances of her career. It played an instrumental role in its winning Best Traditional Gospel Album in 2011 at the Grammy Awards. The beauty behind “River” was the mix of cello and piano in what was an openhearted plea about working through the tumultuous experience of love and loss. As a survivor of breast cancer, the triumphant anthem of feminine strength came through loud and clear as Griffin was at her very best while her vocals laid out “River” was about a strong woman who fought the currents and emerged victorious.
#2 – Up to the Mountain
On an episode of American Idol, Kelly Clarkson sang the cover version of Patty Griffin’s 2007 original, “Up to the Mountain.” It also featured Jeff Beck playing guitar. This was a song written by Patty Griffin, which also served as her highest charting single as a songwriter. On the US Billboard Hot 100, this live performance peaked as high as number fifty-six.
The song was immediately released after it aired on the show’s Idol Gives Back episode. Griffin’s original vocal performance of this song was on her 2007 album, Children Running Through, then later featured on a fourth season episode of the ABC sitcom, Grey’s Anatomy. This song was about taking struggles on and learning to do so with honesty while striving for peace at the same time. “Up to the Mountain” was a song of tribute to Martin Luther King and what he stood for as a simple man that fought so valiantly for the God-given right of freedom.
#1 – Rain
Patty Griffin’s “Rain” was a 1996 masterpiece from her debut album, Living with Ghosts. The pain of lost love is felt in this song, along with the need to not give up hope despite it all. For a good song to trigger the tears to flow from the eyes like a river, “Rain” knows how to deliver. The music video associated with “Rain” was an animated masterpiece that’s bound to trigger the heartstrings. Holding on when it sometimes feels hopeless often feels like a drowning experience. Griffin’s plea for another chance was so beautifully played that it’s clear to see why over three million YouTube viewers love this song for the gem it is.
Top 10 Patty Griffin Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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