Lucinda Williams (born January 26, 1953) is an American rock, folk, and country music singer and songwriter. A three-time Grammy Award winner, she was named "America's best songwriter" by Time magazine in 2002.
Williams was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, the daughter of poet and literature professor Miller Williams. Her father worked as a visiting professor in Mexico and Chile as well as different parts of the American South, before settling at the University of Arkansas. His daughter showed an affinity for music at an early age, and was playing guitar at 12.
By her early 20s, Williams was playing publicly in Austin, Texas and Houston, Texas, concentrating on a folk-rock-country blend. She moved to Jackson, Mississippi in 1978 to record her first album, for Smithsonian/Folkways Records. Titled Ramblin' on My Mind, it was a collection of country and blues covers. She followed it up in 1980 with Happy Woman Blues, which consisted of her own material. Neither album received much attention.
In the 1980s Williams moved to Los Angeles, California, where she signed to Rough Trade Records. Her eponymous album, Lucinda Williams, came out on that label in 1988. The single "Changed the Locks", about a broken relationship, received radio play around the country and gained fans among music insiders, including Tom Petty, who would later cover the song.
1992's album on the Chameleon label, Sweet Old World, was a melancholy album dealing with themes of suicide and death. Williams's biggest success during the early 90s was as a songwriter. Mary Chapin Carpenter recorded a bowdlerized cover of "Passionate Kisses" (from Williams' eponymous 1988 album) in 1992, and the song became a smash country hit for which Williams received the Grammy Award for Best Country Song in 1994.
Williams had garnered considerable critical acclaim, but her commercial success was moderate. Emmylou Harris said of Williams, "She is an example of the best of what country at least says it is. But, for some reason, she's completely out of the loop. And I feel strongly that that's country music's loss."
Williams also gained a reputation as a perfectionist and slow worker when it came to recording; six years would pass before her next album release, though she appeared as a guest on other artists' albums and contributed to several tribute compilations during this period.
The long-awaited release, 1998's Car Wheels on a Gravel Road was Williams' breakthrough to the mainstream. Containing a single from the Robert Redford film The Horse Whisperer, the album received wide critical notice and soon went gold. It received a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album.
Williams followed up Car Wheels ' success with Essence in 2001. This release featured a less produced, more stripped-down approach both musically and lyrically, and moved Williams farther from the country music establishment while winning fans in the alternative music world. She won the 2002 Grammy Award for Best Female Rock performance for the single "Get Right With God", an atypically uptempo gospel-rock tune from the otherwise rather low-key release.
Her seventh album, World Without Tears was released in 2003. A musically adventurous though lyrically downbeat album, this release found Williams experimenting with rap stylings and electric blues. Williams toured with influence Bob Dylan as well as on her own in support of the album.
- Ramblin' on My Mind - 1979
- Happy Woman Blues - 1980
- Lucinda Williams - 1988
- Sweet Old World - 1992
- Car Wheels on a Gravel Road - 1998
- Essence - 2001
- World Without Tears - 2003