I got my writing genes from my father. He was a college professor and poet who saw that ability in me. When I was in grade 1, he put together the poems I’d written. I was a different kind of kid and Dad embraced that.
I went on a road trip with him when I was aged five, to visit the great American novelist Flannery O’Connor – she invited him to her farmhouse in Milledgeville, Georgia. He was becoming established as a poet and she was his greatest mentor.
I haven’t spoken to my brother Robert, who is two years younger than me, for more than 15 years. He played piano, but started withdrawing and going into himself. It’s sad. I have reached out, and while there’s no animosity, he excommunicated himself from everyone.
I started taking music lessons from a guy in a rock band when I was 12 years old. It was the same year I first heard Bob Dylan. One of my father’s students came over to our house and brought a copy of one of Dylan’s albums. It was a huge deal. I put it on the stereo and it blew my mind.
I was madly in love with Bob Dylan. When you look at him on those early album covers, how could you not fall in love? He was an amazing songwriter, but there was so much mystery to him as well. He had curly hair and I had a fantasy about a poet on a motorcycle. He embodied that for me. Jim Morrison did, too.
My first boyfriend was a guy called Fielding. We were 15 and started out as friends. I think because of that great experience, I knew what it was like to have a good relationship. I held on to that ideal.
I would go to his house to smoke joints with his friends and listen to Led Zeppelin. I also remember us switching from friendship to the next level. Our hormones were raging and we couldn’t keep our hands off each other. We would make out and kiss on his bed. We never had sex, though. Dad told me to wait until I was 18 and then he’d get me on the contraceptive pill. There was no way he wanted a teen pregnancy in the house.
I always dated guys who had a certain look – there was always a strong physical attraction. But it never worked out because I didn’t like them for the right reasons. I either liked them because they were cute, or they were musicians. I wanted a guy like my dad. He had to be intellectual. I had a thing for bad boys but wanted them to have a brain, too.
I’m friends with all my exes. When I married my second husband, Tom Overby, in 2009, three exes came to the ceremony. There was a guy I dated in 1974, my first husband Greg Sowder from the Long Ryders, whom I married in 1986, and another guy from the ’80s who was in the Lonesome Strangers.
I’ve finally found my soul mate in Tom. He worked for a record company and I was initially unsure about that. Once, he was supposed to meet me at a club but got held up in a meeting. I called him and he said he couldn’t make it. I turned to my friend with the phone still on and he heard me say, “F…ing record company guys.” I still tease him about it. He isn’t a musician and that’s a good thing for me.
Lucinda Williams’ new album, Good Souls Better Angels, is out now.
This article appears in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on sale June 7.
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Jane Rocca is a regular contributor to Sunday Life Magazine, Executive Style, The Age EG, columnist and features writer at Domain Review, Domain Living’s Personal Space page. She is a published author of four books.