Speed of the Sound of Loneliness

One night around 20 years ago, after I came home late from work, my sweety greeted me, saying, “Come here… you’d GOT to hear this song!” She’d videotaped a musical performance on a late-night TV talk show and it would the first time I would ever hear Nanci Griffith. The memory is a bit foggy, so I can’t say for sure that it was today’s song, or else one that somehow led us to find it, but “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness” is one of our earliest experiences of her songs. It touched off an abiding love affair we’ve had since with the voice and music of the Austin, Texas singer/songwriter. This love was part of the reason one of her songs later made it onto our wedding CD — more on that one, some other time.

For some reason, I had the impression that it was Lee Hazlewood who sang with Griffith on “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness,” but I couldn’t find any versions with the two of them. (I also might just be mixing up memories of Hazlewood’s famous collaborations with Nancy Sinatra.) It was the song’s composer, John Prine who sings backup on the version that appears on the album, Other Voices, Other Rooms. (John Prine later looped back into our lives, indirectly, as one of the artists covered by our son when he wasn’t singing originals during the period when Kieran West and His Buffalo Band were playing shows… check them out where you stream music buy or stream their music, by the way!)

Predictably, I sought out Griffith’s albums; one of which, The MCA Years, was yet another diamond among the CDs from the Columbia House membership (please see posts on February 4, 2020, The Chieftains and The Rankin Family’s “Jimmy Mo Mhíle Stór,” and February 13, Carly Simon’s “Touched by the Sun” for songs from other CDs bought on that). Since then, I’ve found some Griffith CDs second-hand at two Winnipeg shops, Music Trader and Red River Bookstore.

Once, while listening to music and down several internet rabbit holes, I was looking up concert dates for Griffith. By that time her touring was very limited; she was only playing a few dates here and there, in what seemed to be smaller venues. I researched what it would take to get to one of those dates, and it was about two or three flights, plus about a hundred kilometres of driving to get to the venue. With travel time, holiday time, flights and accommodations, and possibilities of delays at any stage that could make us miss the show… it didn’t seem realistic. And, it was just beyond our financial means at the time — though it would have been one heck of a trip! I have mixed feelings about abandoning that trip idea, but in the end, I don’t think it would have worked out without a lot of stress about missing connections. But part of me knows it would have been worth it.

Griffith hasn’t been publicly active since 2013, according to Wikipedia, and her website. In one sense this makes me regret having dropped the unwieldy plan to see her before she stopped doing shows and on the other hand, makes me realize that some things just aren’t meant to be. Even never having seen her perform, Griffith has added much to our lives in the memories, joys and sorrows her songs have evoked in us for close to 20 years.

It seemed we listened to The MCA Years often, for several years. And it was one of our go-to CDs on our many evenings of fun with the friends with whom we shared a similar love for Cyndi Lauper (please see February 2, 2020, “I’m Gonna Be Strong”). We shared many laughs over the stories she told, and so it was a definite #FOMD (fear of missing documentation) moment when Sweety and I were in London together for the first time and saw a Woolworths right there in Islington. In the storytelling preamble to one song on MCA, “Love at the Five and Dime,” in which Griffiths talks about touring in the UK and it being imperative that they stop at a Woolworths she saw, so that “I could fill up my suitcase with unnecessary plastic objects…” We had someone snap a picture of us in front of it to send home to them… many laughs ensued again, every subsequent time the four of us listened to the album.

At Woolworths in Islington, London on June 5, 2008, contemplating the purchase of “unnecessary plastic objects” to take home to our friends.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy. 

Here’s the delightful, official audio from Nanci Griffith’s YouTube channel:

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