Friday, January 06, 2012

Birmingham-Born Emmylou Harris to Be Honored by the Grand Ole Opry

Harris wrote "Boulder to Birmingham" following the death of her friend and sometimes singing partner, Gram Parsons. Parsons died of an overdose at age 26 in a hotel room in Joshua Tree, California.

We don't care how few years Emmylou Harris actually lived in Birmingham, we're claiming the singer with the voice of an angel as our own.

Harris was born at East End Memorial hospital in Birmingham on April 2, 1947. Daughter of a marine, Harris and her family moved often, but she lived in Woodlawn and attended elementary school there until her family packed up and moved to North Carolina when she was six. Harris' mother's family were farmers in Chilton and Elmore counties; her maternal grandparents lived in Birmingham. In interviews and concerts, Harris speaks often of her idyllic childhood in Alabama. Once on stage before singing "Red Dirt Girl"—a song about two friends living in Alabama—she joked that it's illegal in the music business and one risks being fined for having a happy childhood, but in her case it was true. She confesses she has to make up sad stories to justify some of her more melancholy tunes.

Harris was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2008 and has won 12 Grammy awards.

The Grand Ole Opry is honoring Harris for her 20 years as a member. She was inducted into the Opry on January 25, 1992. Shawn Colvin, Ricky Skaggs, and fellow Opry member Vince Gill are scheduled to perform. Visit the Grand Ole Opry's website for more information on the ceremony and concert.

The same year Harris was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, she released a live album called At the Ryman, where she's backed up by her then newly formed acoustic band, The Nash Ramblers. Whatever you do, please treat yourself to a listen. Songs such as "Calling My Children Home," "Get Up John," and "It's a Hard Life Wherever You Go" (written by her good friend, Nanci Griffith; Harris sings on Griffith's Other Voices, Other Rooms) are guaranteed to make your spine tingle.


Hunter said...

Great article, Tressa. I love me some Emmylou!

Tressa said...

Thanks, Hunter. I love me some Emmylou, too, all the way back to the seventies. I used to troll for her records at the Bessemer Flea Mall (haven't been out there in forever). I got rid of a killer record collection more than 15 years ago, now I'm thinking about buying a turntable.

I saw Emmylou in concert in Jemison back in the mid-'80s. It was when her album Ballad of Sally Rose came out. I also saw her a few ears ago when she came to town with Bruce Cockburn.

Listen to her singing Gram Parsons' "Hickory Wind." It's off of her wonderful Blue Kentucky Girl album. So beautiful. Oh, and make sure you listen to Parsons and Harris singing "Love Hurts." Of course Emmylou has so many excellent albums and songs my fingers would get tired talking about them!

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