Steve Earle Biography

Guitarist, Anti-War Activist, Singer, Songwriter (1955–)
Steve Earle is a Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter whose albums seamlessly blend rock, folk and country. He has also appeared on the HBO series The Wire and Treme.


Steve Earle was born on January 17, 1955 in Fort Monroe, Virginia and grew up in Texas. Following the example of his musical hero Townes Van Zandt, Earle became a folk and country singer-songwriter. His debut studio album was Guitar Town in 1986. Drug and personal problems derailed Earle's career in the late 1980s, but he eventually returned to recording and has since won multiple Grammys. Television fans will recognize Earle from his roles on the HBO's The Wire and Treme.

Early Life

Stephen Fain Earle, better known as Steve Earle, was born in Fort Monroe, Virginia on January 17, 1955, and grew up in Texas. Influenced at a young age by legendary folk-rock musicians Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark and Woody Guthrie, Earle became a skilled guitar player by the age of 13.

Musical Career

In 1975, a 20-year-old Earle traveled to Nashville, Tennessee to embark on a musical career, and soon met with childhood inspirations Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt. When Earle began performing at small Nashville venues, country fans were initially put off by his long hair and opposition to the Vietnam War. His strong musical abilities and unique country-rock style, however, eventually won out.

Earle's debut studio album, 1986's Guitar Town, met with both commercial and critical acclaim, with one track, "Goodbye's All We Got Left," landing on the country music chart's Top 10. Two years after releasing Guitar Town, Earle completed his second album, Copperhead Road (1988), which also received wide applause. In 1990, following several failed relationships and battles with addiction, he released The Hard Way, an emotional and somewhat darker project than his prior two releases.

Earle incorporated his politically left ideals—including his anti-death penalty and -war stances—into several songs on the albums Jerusalem and The Revolution Starts...Now, released in 2002 and 2004, respectively. For Revolution, Earle won a Grammy Award (for best contemporary folk album). Four years later, he won another Grammy (for best contemporary folk/Americana album) for 2008's Washington Square Serenade, which features a song performed by Earle and his sixth wife, Allison Moorer. He received a third Grammy (for best contemporary folk album) in 2009, for his Townes Van Zandt-tribute album, Townes.

Recent Projects

In 2011, Earle released a folk-rock project that he titled after a Hank Williams song, Never Get out of This World Alive. In July 2012, Earle hosted an event called Woodyfest, in celebration of Woody Guthrie's 100th birthday, in New York City. The event included performances by Earle, along with Tim Robbins, John Hammond, Billy Bragg and Amy Helm, among others.

Today, Steve Earle is regarded for successfully bridging the rock-country music gap, blending the two genres to create a new, beautifully unique style that few musicians have been able to replicate.

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