Book Review: ‘Don’t Tell Anybody the Secrets I Told You,’ by Lucinda Williams

Don’t tell anyone the secret I told you: memoirs, Lucinda Williams

Grammy Award-winning 70-year-old songwriter Lucinda Williams was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Both of her grandfathers were preachers. One was a civil rights advocate. Her father, Miller Williams, was an award-winning poet. Her mother was fond of music and she played the piano. Williams grew up in Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Utah, Chile, and Mexico. On paper, it was the ideal upbringing for the artist she later became. Their songs are grounded in their deep Southern roots and use factual imagery to evoke intense emotions.

But her pedigree didn’t make her life a decent one, as Williams recalls in her memoir, “Don’t tell anyone a secret I told you.” “I refrained from talking about her childhood for decades,” she says, “instead, I wrote a song about it.”

Williams’ mother was sexually abused as a child and lived with schizophrenia and alcoholism, she wrote. Her father, a poet and professor, was a mentor and protector, but also short-tempered. Williams’ parents divorced after her father started dating one of her teenage students.

The title track of her best-selling album, “Gravel wheels” Williams sings about “a kid who sat in the backseat for four or five years/Looking out the window mixed with tears and a little bit of dirt.” When her father first heard it, he told Williams she was a crying little girl. Until then, Williams didn’t realize she was writing about herself.

Williams’ memoir is as flimsy, naive, and plain-spoken as her songs.She reveals some of her autobiographical grounds her darkest lyrics, but she also tells a bigger story. About artistic determination to combat personal insecurities. To be misunderstood or misunderstood by men and the music business. And hold your stuff tight.

Whether it’s a trendy remix, an album cover photo, or your instincts, don’t give in. She can deal with what is called difficult or “insane,” but she “can sometimes add an unpredictable layer of emotion to an already difficult situation at first,” she admits. A lasting result is in her singing.

Williams envisioned a life as a musician soon after picking up the guitar. She started performing folk songs in her teens. But while she had honed her own songwriting and built her local reputation (in Texas, then Los Angeles), she continued her day job well into her thirties. rice field. Her major labels rejected her over and over again for being “too country to be rock” but “too rock to be country”.

From the beginning of the two low-budget folkway albums she made in 1979 and 1980, Williams sang about basic themes. They are desire, sorrow, love, journey, survival and death. Some of her songs are kiss-offs. Some regret it. Some are elegies. Some are takedowns.They are always based on homely details. “Hot-blooded” In a bluesy gush of female desire, she sings about feeling a “cold chill” while watching a man “fixing your flat with a tire iron.”

British punk label Rough Trade took time to release ‘Lucinda Williams’. Breakthrough album of 1988Ten years later, ‘Car Wheels on a Gravel Road’ marked her commercial peak. But recording that album was long and hard, as she recalls in her memoir. Making records “allows us to test the limits and limitations of everyone involved. I now understand that it’s the norm.”

Getting the sound Williams wanted on “Car Wheels” led to her longtime band breaking up and clashing with two producers. Contract entanglements then delayed the release of the finished album for her two years. Williams also criticized her director Paul for her Schrader video scrapping her concept, stating, “He was just another guy trying to impose his vision on a female artist. ‘Car Wheels’ was a big deal.” No video, no problem. ”

Through her book, Williams recognizes her own desires and mistakes. She has written about her bouts of obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression, and recognizes her own vulnerability to the kind of boyfriend she calls her “poet on a bike.” .

She came anyway. “The relationship ended, but I then a good song‘, she wrote of one romantic failure. Williams has been married to her manager, producer and songwriting collaborator Tom Overby since 2009.

Williams finished the book in 2022, but there is no mention of a stroke in 2020.she can I stopped playing the guitarHowever, she will return to tour in 2021 and continues to write songs.she is releasing New album in June. Her memoir shows how deep that grit runs.

DON’T TELL ANYBODY THE SECRETS I TOLD YOU: A Memoir | | Lucinda Williams 272 pages | Illustrations | Crown | $28

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