Lucinda Williams pays musical tribute to poet dad
NEW YORK — Lucinda Williams says that during a recent visit her father, acclaimed poet Miller Williams, calmly told her that Alzheimer’s disease had robbed him of his ability to write poetry. Her 84-year-old father’s increased frailty lent new urgency to Williams’ effort to pay tribute to him. For the first time, she has put one of his poems to music, singing Compassion as the lead cut on her new album, Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone. The album title is a phrase from the poem. She was stunned when her father said that the part of his brain that enabled him to write poetry was no longer working properly. “I just bawled like a baby,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it. This was my dad, the poet. It was like someone saying that he couldn’t see anymore. It was part of him that was just gone. It’s like a part of him died. That’s why this is so important to me.” The poem she chose to set to music is from Miller Williams’ 1999 book, Some Jazz a While — Collected Poems. Miller Williams, who worked most of his career in Arkansas and Louisiana, has been described as “the Hank Williams of American poetry.” He gained widespread recognition when he read a poem at the 1987 inauguration of U.S. president Bill Clinton.