Member Since 1992
God didn’t make honky-tonk angels, but if he had, he would have broken the mold with Emmylou Harris. With her crystal-clear soprano, lissome beauty, impeccable instincts, and uncompromising integrity, Harris redefined the image and role of women in country music. Few if any artists have so successfully erased boundaries between country, folk, and rock ’n’ roll.
Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Emmylou spent her youth in North Carolina and Virginia. As the daughter of a career Marine, her upbringing was not particularly musical. But during the ’60s she fell in love with folk music—especially Bob Dylan and Joan Baez—and began performing while studying drama at the University of North Carolina. She moved to Greenwich Village in 1967 to join the burgeoning folk revival, sharing stages with Jerry Jeff Walker and David Bromberg, and released her first record in 1969.
On the East Coast club circuit, she met Gram Parsons, and both her career and life changed forever. Parsons, formerly of the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers, became her mentor and singing partner, drawing her into the ’70s country rock movement, and strengthening her ties to traditional country music. Emmylou toured and recorded with Parsons until his death in 1973.
“After he was gone I wanted to carry on with what I thought he would have wanted me to do,” she recalls, “bringing certain elements of folk music, with its emphasis on the lyric, trying electric things, but always coming back to that electric country base.”
In 1975, she recorded her first major album, Pieces of the Sky, introducing her Hot Band which, over the years, has known such world-class players as James Burton, Albert Lee, Rodney Crowell, and Ricky Skaggs.
Emmylou has enjoyed seven No. 1 hits and 27 Top 10 songs including “If I Could Only Win Your Love,” “Together Again,” “Sweet Dreams,” “Making Believe,” “To Daddy,” and “Heartbreak Hill.”
She has 10 gold albums and 11 Grammy Awards, including one for her 1987 Trio album with Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton. In 1995 she released the ambitious Wrecking Ball, a collaboration with celebrated rock producer Daniel Lanois, and won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Recording.
In 1999, Billboard magazine recognized her distinguished career achievements with its highest accolade – the Century Award. Harris continued earning high praises and in 2005 she earned a Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance in respect of "The Connection." 2008 presented Emmylou Harris with the highest honor in country music as she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
The night she joined the Opry, Emmylou summed up her feelings about her music: “Music is like food, sustenance. You certainly don’t do it for the spotlight. ... You do it for the amazing exhilaration of singing, the feeling of the music going through you.”