Country music star Lee Ann Womack will be performing her song “I Hope You Dance” at Maya Angelou’s funeral on June 7th.
Angelou was honored with a brief memorial by the Reverend Al Sharpton earlier this week, but her official funeral will be a much more elaborate celebration of her life.
Few people know that Maya Angelou had a special appreciation for country music. According to Rolling Stone, Lee Ann Womack herself was surprised to learn that Angelou had told Oprah Winfrey her favorite song was “I Hope You Dance.”
“When someone told me ‘I Hope You Dance’ was Miss Angelou’s favorite song all those years ago, I thought they were being nice. Then when my publicist was trying to get me on Oprah, suddenly, all the momentum changed… and we found out it was because Maya Angelou told Oprah about me and the song.”
It is because of this confession that Maya Angelou’s friends, family and fans will be graced with a live rendition of the song. While Womack may not have had a close relationship with the writer, the singer’s two daughters met Angelou once in Chicago. Womack said to Rolling Stone:
“I was honored, moved and thrilled about everything [Maya] said to me about the song and my singing. But all these years later, the song remained? That says so much about the power of music and poetry: the way the human condition can be filtered down in a song. Keeping it real and honest, but also maintaining the love in your heart and compassion…. That makes for an excellent life, and that’s what I think Maya Angelou found in the song.”
Womack won’t be performing alone at Angelou’s funeral. She’s been rehearsing in North Carolina with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra to ensure the performance of Maya’s favorite song is both grand and close to perfect. Lee Ann further explained how important the honor was to her, especially considering the positive impact Angelou’s writing had on the world:
“Maya Angelou is one of the true modern American voices in literature. Her books have touched so many, and the fact that my song touched her… Well, you can’t say ‘no.’ I couldn’t imagine not singing it for her.”
According to Parade, Womack wasn’t Maya’s only favorite country star. She also enjoyed the music of Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Nettles, Blake Shelton and Montgomery Gentry. In the same interview, Maya Angelou shared some of the optimistic longing for equality and justice that she held until the day she died:
“I thank God that I’ve lived long enough to see what I have seen, and I pray that people will continue to do better. We are doing better, it may not seem so, but there was a time when people were lynched in the middle of the street and it was not against the law. We are doing better, but we have so much more to do.”
[Image courtesy of CMT]