Patty Griffin's Best Songs

Essential songs by singer-songwriter Patty Griffin

Patty Griffin is one of the most respected and lauded singer-songwriters in contemporary folk music. Her songs have been recorded and covered by artists across the musical spectrum, from Dixie Chicks to Kelly Clarkson, and countless others. Whether you've come to Patty's work through other artists or are a long-time fan of her solo albums (not to mention her collaborations with Buddy Miller, Emmylou Harris, the Band of Joy, and more)... learn more about some of Patty Griffin's best songs with this quick list.

"Up to the Mountain (MLK Song)"

Patty Griffin - 'Children Running Through'
Patty Griffin - 'Children Running Through'. © ATO Records

Patty Griffin wrote this song, inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr's "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech. It's been covered by numerous people, but hearing Griffin herself sing it feels like a gift. As did Dr. King's speech, the lyrics of this song talk about carrying on despite any of life's hardships or struggles, seeking greater truths, and striving for peace. (From 2007s Children Running Through.)

"Go Wherever You Want to Go"

Patty Griffin - American Kid
Patty Griffin - American Kid. © New West Records

 Patty Griffin's 2013 album American Kid was packed with songs inspired by her father, after his death. No song on that disc encapsulates better the complicated experience of losing someone you love dearly than "Go Wherever You Want to Go." It's a hopeful song, aimed at the afterlife, but the lyrics hint at a hard life lived, bogged down by age and bills and other Earthly hangups. By the end of the song, it's gone from being about death to transcendence and freedom - all universal themes. (from 2013's .)

"Rain"

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Patty Griffin - 'Living With Ghosts'. © A&M Records

This is another splendid heartbreak song from Patty Griffin, about how everything seems to feel so wrong in the face of a broken heart. She sings about holding on despite the pain of lost love, not knowing when to give up and walk away. It's a whole lot of sad and hard, but it's a beautiful and earnest heartbreak song. (From 1996's Living With Ghosts.)

"Mary"

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Patty Griffin - Flaming Red. © A&M Records

 Many songwriters throughout history have tackled the life of the Virgin Mary, but not quite the same way as this fabulous Patty Griffin tune. Her image of Mary is more plainspoken with an eye on the working woman. She recognizes Mary as a godly image in the church, while also seeing her as wholly human, flawed, and lonesome. (from 1998's Flaming Red.)

"Heavenly Day"

Patty Griffin - Children Running Through
Patty Griffin - Children Running Through. © ATO Records

As she's noted at concerts, Patty Griffin wrote this song for her dog. It's a tune about the ultimate joy of living. The lyrics sing about living in the moment and appreciating the beauty all around because tomorrow it may be gone.

"Dear Old Friend"

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13 Ways to Live. © Red House Records

This song is initially about feelings of desperation and hopelessness but becomes one of the most hopeful songs about survival and perseverance. Throughout the song, Griffin raises the question of how to face all the sadness and despair of life's darkest moments, concluding that perhaps it's enough to know that one day you'll smile again.

"Moon Song"

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Patty Griffin - Live From the Artists Den. © Artists Den Records

This song is a tremendously honest account of heartbreak and disappointment. The lyrics talk about a relationship gone so far awry that all that's left is one person waiting for the other to never show up. It's about as sad and lonely as they get and, next to maybe Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" is one of the finest heartbreak songs around.

"Truth #2"

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Patty Griffin - Silver Bell. © A&M Records

This song may have first entered the mainstream consciousness via the Dixie Chicks (who mined Patty Griffin's work more than once), but it was originally recorded for her follow-up to Flaming Red - the long-hidden disc Silver Bell. To hear Griffin tell it, Silver Bell was held up by the label, who thought it wasn't going to sell. They kept the album under wraps through changes in the industry and other events, for more than a decade, finally releasing the disc in 2013. Griffin's original version of the song, it turns out, is stunning.

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Ruehl, Kim. "Patty Griffin's Best Songs." ThoughtCo, Nov. 19, 2017, thoughtco.com/patty-griffins-best-songs-1322679. Ruehl, Kim. (2017, November 19). Patty Griffin's Best Songs. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/patty-griffins-best-songs-1322679 Ruehl, Kim. "Patty Griffin's Best Songs." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/patty-griffins-best-songs-1322679 (accessed November 24, 2017).