Today is singer/songwriter Nanci Griffith‘s birthday. She’s 59.
A commercial broadcaster once told me that he appreciated a public radio show I worked on because we played Nanci’s music. I guess she wasn’t commercial enough to be featured on his station very often, but we had the freedom to embrace good music that was not going to make a lot of money.
At least one Nanci Griffith song did become a top 5 country hit – as done by Kathy Mattea. But Nanci’s is the version we played.
She has ardently promoted reading and featured books on many of her album covers, back when album covers mattered. Those looking for political statements in the poetry would find a distinct leftward tilt.
With her latest recording, Nanci has become more openly political and expressed unabashed support for the Occupy movement. Apparently this is not a topic that can be addressed with a pretty ballad, though I hope the hand-clapping Hell’s Angel boys are optional.
Things certainly do change.
One criticism of political songs is that they don’t have much staying power. Things happen. Conditions change. The topic shifts. Before long people can’t remember what it was you were talking about in your musical commentary.
But nothing is immune to change, and the fog of time obscures everything, eventually.
In addition to those suffering personal economic distress in the form of foreclosures and job loss, the “I’m not all right” assessment in that second song could certainly apply to Woolworth’s, featured prominently and innocently in the first song. The company closed all its five-and-dimes and retired its well-known name in the late 90’s to focus on a new retail strategy through a string of mall outlets called “Foot Locker”.
Yup, that’s all that’s left of Woolworth’s. Somehow I don’t think that lovely Five and Dime song would sound the same with the line “… she made the Foot Locker counter shine.”
Good thing Nanci Griffith was there to write the song at a time when people still knew what Woolworth’s was all about.
Name a favorite song, poem, book or work of art about something that is no longer around.