Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Emmylou Harris spent her childhood in North Carolina and Woodbridge, Virginia, where she graduated from high school as class valedictorian. In high school she also won a drama scholarship to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she began to study music seriously, learning to play the songs of Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez on guitar.
Leaving college to pursue her musical aspirations, she moved to New York, working as a waitress to support herself while performing folk songs in Greenwich Village coffeehouses. In 1970 and in the following year recorded her first album, Gliding Bird. After a brief marriage to songwriter Tom Slocum, Harris and her newborn daughter moved in with her parents in the Maryland suburbs on the edge of Washington, D.C.
Harris soon returned to performing as part of a trio with Gerry Mule and Tom Guidera. One night in 1971, members of the country rock group The Flying Burrito Brothers happened to be in the audience. Former Byrds member Chris Hillman, was so impressed by Harris that he briefly considered asking her to join the band. Instead, Hillman ended up recommending her to Graham Parsons, who was looking for a female vocalist to work with on his first solo album, GP.
Harris toured as a member of Parsons' band, The Fallen Angels, in 1973, and the couple shone during vocal harmonies and duets. Later that year, Parsons and Harris worked on a studio album, Grievous Angel. Parsons died in his motel room on September 19, 1973, from an accidental overdose of drugs and alcohol. Parsons's Grievous Angel was released posthumously in 1974, and three more tracks from his last sessions with Harris were included on another posthumous Parsons album, Sleepless Nights, in 1976. There was one more album of recorded material from that period of time that was packaged with the name, Live 1973, but was not released until 1982.
The working relationship between Harris and Parsons is of great importance in country and country-rock music history. Parsons offered Harris a study in true country music, and provided her with a musical identity. death left her devastated at an emotional and musical crossroads.
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She eventually carried on with her own version of Parsons' musical vision, and was instrumental in bringing attention to his achievements. Harris' earliest signature song, and arguably her most personal one, "Boulder to Birmingham," written shortly after Parson's death, showed the depth of her pain at losing Parsons. It was, according to her best friend Linda Ronstadt, the beginning of a "lifetime effort to process what had happened," and was just the first of many songs written and/or performed by Harris about Parsons.
A Warner Brothers representative introduced Harris to Canadian producer Brian Ahern, who produced her major label debut album, Pieces of the Sky, released in 1975 on Reprise Records. Two singles were released: "Too Far Gone," which initially charted at #73 (a 1979 reissue hit #13), and Harris's first big hit, "If I Could Only Win Your Love," a duet with Herb Pedersen (later a founding member of The Desert Rose Band), which peaked at #4.
Harris started the Hot Band by enlisting guitarist James Burton and pianist Glen Hardin, both of whom had played with Elvis Presley as well as Parsons. Burton was a renowned guitarist, starting in Ricky Nelson's band in the 1950s, and Hardin had been a member of The Crickets.
|With Neil Young|
Emmylou Harris continues to record, tour and collaborate with a wide range of musical artists including Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton, Guy Clark, Neil Young, Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison just to name a few. During the summer of 1997 and 1998, Harris joined Sarah McLachlan's all-woman musical touring festival, the Lilith Fair.
Emmylou Harris' Grammy Awards-- 2005 Best Female Country Vocal Performance ("The Connection")
-- 2001 Album of the Year (O Brother, Where Art Thou?)
-- 2000 Best Contemporary Folk Album (Red Dirt Girl)
-- 1999 Best Country Collaboration with Vocals ("After The Gold Rush," with Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt)
-- 1998 Best Country Collaboration with Vocals ("Same Old Train," with Alison Krauss, Clint Black, Dwight Yoakam, Earl Scruggs, Joe Diffie, Marty Stuart, Merle Haggard, Pam Tillis, Patty Loveless, Randy Travis, Ricky Skaggs & Travis Tritt)
-- 1995 Best Contemporary Folk Album (Wrecking Ball)
-- 1992 Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal (Emmylou Harris & The Nash Ramblers At the Ryman, as Emmylou Harris & The Nash Ramblers)
-- 1987 Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal (Trio, with Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt)
-- 1984 Best Country Vocal Performance, Female ("In My Dreams")
-- 1980 Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group ("That Lovin' You Feelin' Again," with Roy Orbison)
1979 Best Country Vocal Performance, Female (Blue Kentucky Girl)
-- 1976 Best Country Vocal Performance, Female (Elite Hotel)