Lee Ann Womack was among the thousands of mourners who attended the funeral of poet and author Maya Angelou at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C. on Saturday. Angelou passed away May 28 at the age of 86. During the funeral, Lee Ann performed “I Hope You Dance” in Angelou’s honor.
“Maya Angelou is one of the true modern American voices in literature,” Lee Ann told Rolling Stone. “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, especially on Saturday.”
Lee Ann learned Angelou was a fan of the song through Oprah Winfrey. “When someone told me ‘I Hope You Dance’ was Miss Angelou’s favorite song all those years ago, I thought they were being nice,” she said. “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.”
Lee Ann met Angelou once with her daughters in Chicago. She vividly recalls how meeting her felt. “I was honored, moved and thrilled about everything she said to me about the song and my singing,” she said. “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.”