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Country singer Emmylou Harris spent forty years recording hit music, often working with artists like Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt.
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She recorded her second album, the top-selling Elite Hotel (1976), with a new backup band called the Hot Band, which included two sidemen who played with Elvis Presley. Anchored by the success of two No. 1 hits, "Together Again" (written by Buck Jones) and "Sweet Dreams" (written by Patsy Cline),
Elite Hotel earned Harris a Grammy Award for Best Country Female Vocal Performance and marked her breakthrough into the top ranks of country-folk performers.
Before the end of the 1970s, Harris released five more albums, including Luxury Liner (1977), Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town (1978), Profile: The Best of Emmylou Harris (1979) and Blue Kentucky Girl (1979), the last of which won her a second Grammy. Blue Kentucky Girl was Harris' sixth straight gold album. She also sang guest vocals on Bob Dylan's 1976 album Desire. Harris gave up touring while pregnant with her second child, Meghann, and instead recorded a hit Christmas album, Light of the Stable (1979), with a title single that featured guest vocals by Dolly Parton, Neil Young and Linda Ronstadt.
The acoustic bluegrass album Roses in the Snow (1980) also went gold, as did Evangeline (1981), a compilation of songs left off previous albums. Around that time, several key members of the Hot Band, including backup singer/songwriter Ricky Skaggs, left to begin solo careers, and Harris' marriage to Ahern began to disintegrate. After two less successful studio albums (1981's Cimarron and 1982's White Shoes) and one live effort, 1982's Last Date, Harris and Ahern separated in 1983, and she moved back to Nashville.
Joining forces with the singer-songwriter Paul Kennerley, with whom she had worked before, Harris wrote and recorded a semi-autobiographical album, The Ballad of Sally Rose (1985). The album had mediocre sales, but was seen by critics as a defining moment in the evolution of Harris' unique musical style, a blend of pop, folk, gospel and blues mixed with a strong dose of pure, traditional country. After touring together in 1985, Harris and Kennerley were married.
After two more solo albums—Thirteen (1986) and The Angel Band (1987)—Harris recorded Trio (1987) with fellow luminaries Parton and Ronstadt. The album quickly became Harris' bestselling effort to date, featuring such hits as "To Know Him is to Love Him" by Phil Spector, "Telling Me Lies," and "Those Memories of You." She closed out the decade with another solo album, Bluebird (1988).
Harris made an auspicious beginning in the 1990s with the release of Brand New Dance (1990) and Duets, the latter was a compilation of her earlier hits with artists such as George Jones, Willie Nelson and Gram Parsons. With a new backup band, the Nash Ramblers, she released a second live album, At the Ryman (1992). In 1993, Harris left Warner/Reprise and signed with Asylum Records. Her marriage to Paul Kennerley also ended that year.
After the release of Cowgirl's Prayer (1993) and Songs of the West (1994), Harris switched gears, teaming with the producer Daniel Lanois (best known for his work with such artists as Dylan, U2 and Peter Gabriel) to record her most experimental album to that date, Wrecking Ball (1996). More rock-oriented than Harris' previous albums, Wrecking Ball showcased Harris' throaty vocals on tracks written by, among others, Neil Young (the title track, which featured Young on backing vocals) and Jimi Hendrix ("May This Be Love").
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