Beth Nielsen Chapman was born on September 14, 1958 in Harlingen, Texas (USA). Her musical eclecticism found its roots in her childhood. The middle child of five in an Air Force family, she moved six times before she reached adolescence. At that time, she started playing guitar and piano and writing songs.
During her developmental years, Chapman was attracted by the compositional richness of greats like Hoagy Carmichael, Cole Porter, and George and Ira Gershwin. She memorized songs from Broadway musicals as well as soaking up the sounds of everything from Stevie Wonder, Sting and Joni Mitchell to Ella, Paul Simon and The Beatles and honed her skills as a performer in small clubs throughout Alabama and the South.
Beth Nielsen Chapman has become one of the leading singer-songwriters of her generation. Her music shows up regularly not only at the top of the charts, but on television (ER, Dawson’s Creek, Providence, Felicity) and in movie soundtracks, including The Prince of Egypt, Message In A Bottle, The Rookie, Where The Heart Is and Practical Magic.
Among her biggest successes as a writer is This Kiss, a huge international hit for Faith Hill and ASCAP’S 1999 Song Of The Year. The song was co-written by Beth with Annie Roboff and Robin Lerner. That same year Beth was chosen as Nashville NAMMY’S Songwriter of the Year and was inducted into The Alabama Music Hall Of Fame.
Beth’s songs have been covered by a wide selection of artists including Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, Neil Diamond, Trisha Yearwood, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Ute Lempter and many more.
As an artist, Beth has released several albums, four of which were on Warner Brothers Records including her groundbreaking Sand and Water album, written and recorded following the death of her husband from cancer in 1994. This record is often used as a tool for healing through grief. As Beth toured during the release of Sand & Water she often taught workshops on creativity and working through grief.
Just as she was putting the finishing touches on her subsequent release Deeper Still (to which John Prine, Emmylou Harris, John Hiatt, Kimmie Rhodes and Andy Bey all contributed background vocals) Beth was diagnosed with stage-two breast cancer. Successfully treated over the next twelve months, she went on to release the record and made it a point to speak about her experience and encourage women to be vigilant in caring for their health. Deeper Still was Beth’s first release for Sanctuary Records.
Look, her second release for Sanctuary in 2004, marked a new turning point in a life touched by both great happiness and great sorrow, and just as sadness and love shape a soul as surely as sand and water shape the earth, we see this artist’s heart emerge strong, happy and still tender.
In 2005 Beth released Hymns, a fascinating side-project of a cappella hymns sung in Latin, produced by Beth and featuring beautiful harmonies, with her son Ernest singing the tenor parts and her father doing some of the bass parts.
Hymns is an important milestone in the journey of Beth as an artist. A project which has been her intention to complete for many years is finally going out into the world. Here is what Beth has to say about this amazing collection of songs:
“I was raised in a Catholic family and the beautiful melodies on Hymns, sung mostly in Latin, were the ‘hit parade’ for all of us born before Vatican II. I came to record this CD while I was in the midst of recording a different CD of World Hymns, each in a different language and from a different religion. During that process, I was having trouble making up my mind which Latin hymn I would choose to include.
When I searched for a collection of my favorite Latin hymns I couldn’t find one anywhere. That’s when I decided it might be a good idea to go deep into the roots of my own spiritual beginnings as part of the journey of recording all these other hymns from around the world. This detour has taken me the better part of a year, and has made my Mama very happy! Here, in these songs, are the roots of my spiritual journey. They center me, even while I have come to believe that faith is something beyond the boundaries of any one religion.
My belief has always been that God is light, and humanity, like a diamond. Imagine each spiritual perspective, or path of faith, as an angle cut into that diamond. The light shines through and reflects off of all these angles in so many directions. If you were standing on one face of the diamond, it might seem as if the light is only shining on you. But I’ve always believed that God shines through all of humanity, and just as the sun breaks up and flies in every direction when it’s light hits a diamond, every voice of praise, in every spiritual language comes from and goes back to the same source of light.
The stories and teachings of my childhood have certainly shaped my way of feeling connected to this light. But I feel that someone of the Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, or any other faith, has just as much a right to define and to celebrate, from each of their perspectives, the beauty and sureness of the love of God.
I have for a long time wanted to use my voice like a thread winding through all these languages and melodies. Some of these melodies are very old, some new with ancient text. I’ve tried to be conscious of choosing lyrics that speak of devotion and faith whose meanings do not seek to separate or condemn any other voice of devotion. World Hymns will be completed early in 25. Meanwhile I’m enclosing Hymns, a collection of the old favorites I grew up listening to, along with my deep wish for peace.”
Drawing influences from the fields of folk, country, pop and jazz, her songs address such timeless themes as loss, renewal, mortality, spirituality and grace under pressure.
Back To Love, released in 2010, generated two hits on BBC Radio 2, and in 2012 Beth released, The Mighty Sky, a collection of songs about the marvels of astronomy.
In 2014 she released Uncovered, a set of songs that have been covered by other artists, but she had never recorded herself. Many were Top 10 hits, seven of which topped the charts at #1. Uncovered was recorded in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and her own “Tree House” studio in Nashville. It features well-known American and Scottish musicians.
Beth Nielsen Chapman (Warner Brothers Records, 199)
You Hold the Key (Warner Brothers Records, 1993)
Sand and Water (Warner Brothers Records, 1994)
Beth Nielsen Chapman – Greatest Hits (Warner Brothers Records, 1999)
Deeper Still (Sanctuary Records, 2002)
Look (Sanctuary Records, 2oo4)
Hymns (Sanctuary Records, 2005)
Prism (BNC Records, 2008)
Back to Love (BNC Records, 2010)
The Mighty Sky (BNC Records, 2012)
Liv On (2016)
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.