Born into a military family in Birmingham, Ala. in 1947, country/folk singer Emmylou Harris grew up in North Carolina and the Washington, D.C. area, where shewas a top student. Earning a scholarship to the University of North Carolina, Harris becameincreasingly interested in music and formed a folk duo with fellow studentMike Williams. Harris dropped out of school to pursue her music full time, and inthe late '60s moved to New York's Greenwich Village to join its renown folk scene.
In 1969 Harris married and landed a record deal; unfortunately, shortly after therelease of her debut album Gliding Bird, her label went bankrupt, leavingHarris penniless. With a child on the way and money tight, the marriage failedand Harris divorced, moving back to Washington, D.C. to live with her parents.
While performing at a local club in 1971, Harris was discovered by ex-Flying BurritoBrother Gram Parsons, who offered her a guest spot on his 1972 solo album, GP.Shortly after completing work for their next album, Parsons was found dead of a drugoverdose, once again leaving Harris on her own. She formed a band called the AngelBand and soon landed a deal with Reprise Records, relocating to Los Angeles topursue her career.
Marrying her producer, Brian Ahern, Harris recorded her major-label debut, Pieces of Sky, in 1975, which spawned the hit "If I Could Only Win YourLove." Her 1976 follow-up Elite Hotel, was recorded with a new backup bandcalled the Hot Band, which featured two former Elvis sidemen. Two No. 1 hits, "TogetherAgain" and "Sweet Dreams," were taken from Elite Hotel, which earnedher a Grammy for Best Country Female Vocal Performance. This breakthrough country/folk album was followed by Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town (1978),Profile (1978), and Blue Kentucky Girl (1979), the last of which, with singles like "Beneath Still Waters" and "Save the Last Dance for Me," earned hera second Grammy .
1979's Light of the Stable and 1980's Roses in the Snow consolidatedher following, paving the way for her first gold album, 1981's Evangeline compilation.After a new studio album, Cimarron (1981), Harris released her first live effort,1982's Last Date, quickly followed by another album, 1983's White Shoes.Around this time she separated from Ahern and moved to Nashville, Tenn.
Joining with singer-songwriter Paul Kennerley, with whom she had worked before,Harris released her 1985 semi-autobiographical album The Ballad of Sally Rose, which broke new artistic ground while failing to rack up spectacular sales. Harris and Kennerley married after touring together in support of the album, and Harris churned outThirteen in 1986, followed the next year by The Angel Band, an acousticalbum of traditional country songs.
In 1987 Harris joined fellow country legends Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt foran album called Trio, which quickly went gold. After a 1988 album of duets withcountry luminaries called, appropriately enough, Duets, Harris returned to releasing albums at a rapid-fire rate. She closed out the decade withBluebird (1989) before ringing in the '90s with Brand New Dance (1990),and a live album At the Ryman (1992), which featured a new backup band calledthe Nash Ramblers.
Harris left both Warner/Reprise and Paul Kennerley in 1993, switching to Asylum Recordsand releasing a new album called Cowgirl's Prayer. After 1994's Songs of theWest, Harris released what is perhaps her most experimental album, Wrecking Ball.Recorded with Daniel Lanois (U2, Bob Dylan, Peter Gabriel), Wrecking Ball wasmore rock-oriented, featuring a Jimi Hendrix cover and a duet with Neil Young.
In 1996 Warner Bros. released a three-CD "best of" album called Portraits.