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Lake Charles, La.-born Lucinda Williams grew up in part in Fayetteville. Her father, poet Miller Williams, still lives in Washington County. Although Williams recorded her first album in 1979, she first came to the attention of many in the 1990s when her song “Passionate Kisses” went up the country charts as performed by Mary Chapin Carpenter. It won Williams her first Grammy Award.
Williams went on to achieve status as a performer in her own right. Her 1998 album, “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road,” won her a third Grammy. In 2001, Williams released “Essence”; Time magazine called her “America’s best songwriter.” In April 2003, she issued “World Without Tears,” and that September played her first-ever show in Little Rock.
To have one’s songs recorded by others is one thing; Lucinda Williams has reached the status of an Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash or Tupac Shakur — where songs are written about you. Although Williams’ album sales are nowhere near those of the aforementioned artists, at least three songwriters have found her iconic enough to name songs after her.
Florida native Vic Chesnutt may have been the first to issue a song called “Lucinda Williams.” It appears on Chesnutt’s 1992 album “West of Rome,” produced by R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe. “I settled down on a hurt as big as Robert Mitchum,” Chesnutt sings, “and listened to Lucinda Williams.” It is the only line in the song which mentions Williams by name. Chesnutt’s album was re-released in expanded form in June 2004.
Philadelphia singer-songwriter Robert Bobby recorded his own song called “Lucinda Williams,” on his 2001 album “FUBAR.” The singer says he drove more than three hours from Pennsylvania to New York City to see his first Lucinda Williams concert in 1990 or 1991 — and wrote the song on the drive home.
Unlike the other songs, where Williams’ music is a character in the periphery of another drama, Bobby’s song tells the story of his first Williams concert: “Lucinda Williams, that’s your name, you’re the reason that I came ... you stole the feelings of my heart.”
Williams wasn’t very comfortable on stage then, Bobby said, but she has improved in the dozen times he’s seen her perform since.
A third song named “Lucinda Williams” made the rounds of Napster before being released on an album. The band, Buffalo Nickel, was formed in Hattiesburg, Miss., in 1999, and its song “Lucinda Williams” was written by the band’s Emily Graham.
Both Buffalo Nickel and the actual Lucinda Williams played at Austin’s South By Southwest music conference in 2001. While in the audience at the Williams show, Graham unsuccessfully tried to get a CD copy of the song “Lucinda Williams” to the real Williams.
Graham’s lyric mentioning Williams goes: “So it seems that little Debbie has got some big ideas, and now she don’t smoke Virginia Slims, and she listens to Lucinda Williams.”
Buffalo Nickel’s song “Lucinda Williams” did finally appear on its album “Up On Blocks.” But on July 7, 2002, after the band had received its first copies of the CD, songwriter Graham died in a car accident. The other members of Buffalo Nickel played at Graham’s funeral.
The band played “Lucinda Williams.”
• “Lucinda Williams,” Vic Chesnutt
• “Lucinda Williams,” Robert Bobby
• “Lucinda Williams,” Buffalo Nickel