Lucinda Williams is one of those Americana icons in the tradition of Johnny Cash, a singer-songwriter who fights for social justice and the disenfranchised. She’s spent years working with Amnesty International, and dedicated hundreds of hours to prevent convicted killer David Lee Powell’s execution in 2010. Her efforts failed, but it reaffirmed Williams’s fight against the death penalty and for fairer prison conditions.
So Williams was something of a natural fit when producers of the new documentary on the West Memphis Three, West of Memphis, sought contributions for the soundtrack, West of Memphis: Voices for Justice (streaming now on CBC Music). Williams told CBC Music how Johnny Depp brought her into the project, about capital punishment and the complicated case that continues to captivate.
Years ago I saw that first documentary that came out on HBO [Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hills]. Then flash forward several years and I happened to meet the woman [Amy J. Berg] who made this new documentary. One thing led to another and I told her I’d been involved in a case where this guy was on death row and I was trying to help because I’m anti-capital punishment and everything and we just started talking about that subject. And I’d done that Bob Dylan tribute album for Amnesty International ’cause I like getting involved in those kinds of things. So we talked about whether I’d want to have a song involved and they were going to do this CD, and I said, “Absolutely.”