Maya Angelou, the renowned poet, and writer, had a surprising passion for country music. She was a serious aficionado of the genre and admired artists like Reba McEntire, Toby Keith, and Montgomery Gentry. Despite her fame in the literary world, Angelou also dabbled in songwriting, including country songs of her own. However, none of her country compositions were ever recorded, leaving her with a sense of unfulfilled potential in the music industry.
In a 2013 interview with The New York Times, Angelou shared her fondness for country music, mentioning some of her favorite artists. She confessed that she had written several songs herself, hoping they would find their way into the hearts of country music lovers someday. She particularly admired the hit song “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack. Angelou revealed that she had planned to write a similar song, but someone else beat her to it.
“I Hope You Dance” was co-written by Tia Sillers and Mark D. Sanders, who captured the essence of hope and dreams in their lyrics. The song’s inspiration came to Sillers while standing alone at the beach, feeling insignificant amidst the vastness of the ocean. She arrived at a writing session with Mark D. Sanders armed with a list of “I hopes,” which became the foundation for the song’s heartfelt message.
While Sillers wasn’t sure if Lee Ann Womack would be interested in recording the song, the producer, Mark Wright, saw its potential. Under Wright’s guidance, the song evolved, blending pop and folk elements to create a truly captivating sound. Womack’s poignant vocals brought the song to life, leaving a lasting impact on listeners.
“I Hope You Dance” proved to be a remarkable success on both the pop and country music charts. It became Lee Ann Womack’s biggest hit, reaching No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topping the Hot Country Songs chart for five weeks. The album of the same name, featuring the song, also reached impressive heights, reaching No. 16 on the Billboard 200 and holding its position for 83 weeks.
Angelou’s admiration for “I Hope You Dance” stemmed not only from its success but also from the emotional connection she felt to the song. It resonated with her deeply, as if the song’s sentiments mirrored her own hopes and aspirations. Angelou believed that she could have written a song with a similar impact had the circumstances been different.
Despite her passion for country music and her fleeting interest in songwriting, Maya Angelou’s legacy primarily rests in her profound literary contributions. Her poetry, autobiographies, and essays continue to inspire and touch the hearts of millions around the world. While she may not have written a classic country hit, her impact on the arts and culture remains indelible. Maya Angelou’s love for country music serves as a reminder of the depth and diversity of her passions and talents.