Lucinda Williams is my favorite musician and songwriter—by far. She has been since early on in my adolescence. The reason for this ties in closely with a huge focus of this blog: self-acceptance. (Just about any angsty, music-loving teen could probably have told you that, as well as everything I’m about to write here, but here I am in my mid-30s finally connecting these dots.)

Almost 10 years ago, one of my best friends asked me, “Why do you love Lucinda Williams so much? You’re so happy, and her songs are so depressing.” I replied with something akin to, “There’s more to me than just happiness.” Frankly, though, that it made sense he’d drawn the conclusion he did about who I was. He didn’t see other parts of me because of my tendency to censor my “unacceptable” emotions. If I hide them from myself, how can I expect anyone else to see them?*

You know what, though? I don’t always push these emotions away. When I listen to Lucinda, which I’ve done often over the last couple decades, no emotion is off-limits for me. Her songs don’t just resonate with me; they’re a refuge. They’re a place where all emotions are beautiful, part of what makes us alive. Listening to Lucinda, I love my whole self.

Lucinda doesn’t just mention emotions, either. She unfolds them languorously in the gritty lyrics she weaves. She adds a level of extra depth with her rich, honest voice. The guitars throughout her albums, played by her and the artists she picks to perform with her, add even more dimension; they’re raw and at times almost human-sounding—no accident, I am sure. Perhaps surprisingly, Lucinda leaves actual emotions completely unspoken most of the time. Instead, she tells stories that unearth emotions I myself (and I suspect all of us) have felt, and often pushed away, as a result of my own life experiences.

Below are three examples of the emotional wealth Lucinda brings to the table. For me, the first song, “Lake Charles,” speaks of wistfulness, pain, attachment, and suicidality. The second one, “Metal Firecracker” (what a mental image!), brings up regret, shame, longing, loss, wonder about what might have been, and maybe resentment. The last one is “Lonely Girls.” This time, the starring emotion is named, accounting for 1 in 4 words in the song. This song is deceptively simple. I love the naked way Lucinda reveals how humans have developed countless strategies as foils to keep ourselves from detecting or displaying our loneliness.

I won’t write anything else in this post after the songs; I never feel like more needs to be said after Lucinda has said something.

“Lake Charles”

He had a reason to get back to Lake Charles
He used to talk about it
He’d just go on and on
He always said Louisiana
Was where he felt at home
He was born in Nacogdoches
That’s in East Texas
Not far from the border
But he liked to tell everybody
He was from Lake Charles
Did an angel whisper in your ear
And hold you close and take away your fear
In those long last moments
We used to drive
Through Lafayette and Baton Rouge
In a yellow Camino
Listening to Howling Wolf
He liked to stop in Lake Charles
Cause that’s the place that he loved
Did you run about as far as you could go
Down the Louisiana highway
Across Lake Ponchatrain
Now your soul is in Lake Charles
No matter what they say
Did an angel whisper in your ear
And hold you close and take away your fear
In those long last moments[SOLO]He had a reason to get back to Lake Charles
He used to talk about it
He’d just go on and on
He always said Louisiana
Was where he felt at home
Did an angel whisper in your ear
And hold you close and take away your fear
In those long last moments
Did an angel whisper in your ear
And hold you close and take away your fear
In those long last moments

“Metal Firecracker”

Once we rode together
In a metal firecracker
You told me I was your queen
You told me I was your biker
You told me I was your everything
Once I was in your blood
And you were obsessed with me
You wanted to paint my picture
You wanted to undress me
You wanted to see me in your future
All I ask
Don’t tell anybody the secrets
Don’t tell anybody the secrets
I told you
All I ask
Don’t tell anybody the secrets
Don’t tell anybody the secrets
I told youOnce you held me so tight
I thought I’d lose my mind
You said I rocked your world
You said it was for all time
You said that I would always be your girl
We’d put on ZZ Top
And turn em up real loud
I used to think you were strong
I used to think you were proud
I used to think nothing could go wrong
All I ask
Don’t tell anybody the secrets
Don’t tell anybody the secrets
I told you
All I ask
Don’t tell anybody the secrets
I told you

“Lonely Girls”

Lonely girls
lonely girls
lonely girls
lonely girlsheavy blankets
heavy blankets
heavy blankets cover lonely girlssweet sad songs
sweet sad songs
sweet sad songs sung by lonely girlslonely girls
lonely girls
lonely girls
lonely girls

pretty hairdos
pretty hairdos
pretty hairdos worn by lonely girls

sparkly rhinestones
sparkly rhinestones
sparkly rhinestones shine on lonely girls

Lonely girls
Lonely girls
Lonely girls
Lonely girls

I oughta know
I oughta know
I oughta know about lonely girls

Lonely girls
Lonely girls
Lonely girls
Lonely girls


* I’m fortunate to have a small handful of friends who do see all sides of me even when I don’t make room for them myself. Plus there’s my partner who, about once every 5 years, makes some insightful observation about me that I find stunning and immeasurably helpful. That man knows me for who I am.

5 thoughts on “Why I Love the Shit out of Lucinda Williams

  1. I share your love of Lucinda’s lyrics. Unlike your friend, I don’t find them depressing, just real. Emotions are a major part of our lives and, as you say, songs can remind us to feel them and think about them. One story: I had an MRI about two years ago that lasted 40 minutes. The technician asked me which Pandora station I wanted and warned that relaxing music would work best. I chose Lucinda. After the session, she remarked that she found Lucinda amazing and added her to her personal Pandora list. In short, I agree with your attachment to her music. She’s great.

    Like

  2. I often don’t tell people my favorite artists because they often don’t understand. There’s so much pain in those lyrics, and it feels so good. Some of our old classics I frequent: Janis, Melissa, Alanis, Joan, Wallflowers, blues. And I thoroughly enjoy a slew of “sad” songs by various people. Hallelujah, Jeremy, Better Man, Don’t Leave Me Dry, Autumn Leaves, Hunger Strike, Linkin Park songs, and so many more. This is a big reason why I never became a singer in a band. Not mainstream and so vulnerable.

    Thanks for sharing all this. I really enjoyed the post.

    Like

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