Folk singer Grace Griffith was a physical therapist before going into music fulltime. With her soaring vocals reminiscent of Judy Collins, and a sound that draws from traditional Celtic music, Grace has built a loyal following in Washington, D.C. and beyond. Eight years ago, she was diagnosed with the neurological disorder Parkinson's disease, and even though she's curtailed her schedule, she made time to record one of her most personal albums to date. VOA's Doug Levine has more.
Grace Griffith isn't making as many albums as she used to, but that doesn't mean she's any less committed. In fact, despite the degenerative nature of Parkinson's disease, Grace remains as positive and upbeat as ever. She says her new album, My Life, reflects her newfound appreciation for the world around her. "The other albums were a very eclectic mixture of not only styles but also moods, and I'd say this one is more of a mood piece and there's not such a wide variation," she says.
Determined to make the best of her situation, Grace turned inward for inspiration. "I've had an interesting couple of years here with a lot of challenges and a lot of learning to do about living and how to think about life," she says. "And these songs kind of reflect my personal journey, I would say.
"I can't think of an aspect of my life that it has not affected in a big way. But [my] music has [been affected] for sure. I've had to cut back quite a bit on the amount of performances that I do and that sort of thing. I've had to cut back on any number of instruments that I play, because in addition to being a singer I've always been a dabbler at playing different things. The Parkinson's affected my coordination in such a way that I've had to focus more on just my singing. But I'm very lucky to have it as a focus because it's a passion and a pleasure to do it to the extent that I can."
Grace has always felt that playing music was a privilege. As one of 10 children growing up on a small Maryland farm, she usually had to put work before singing and playing guitar. "We had to make our way in the world, and I was not encouraged really in the direction of music as a practical way of doing that. So, physical therapy provided that, and it was also something that I enjoyed a lot, being able to help people and connect with them on that kind of an intimate level," she says.
Grace Griffith finds playing music the best therapy of all. She continues to perform locally in the Washington, D.C. area, while updating fans on her website, Seamaid.org.