All-star music benefits regularly support worthy causes like AIDS research and the homeless; this summer a special tribute album will bring it all back home by helping out a fellow musician. In honor of L.A. alternative folk singer Victoria Williams, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis last year, Lou Reed, Neil Young, Pearl Jam, the Lemonheads and others will add their voices to a record of Williams’s songs, Sweet Relief, expected in stores in June. Like many artists, Williams has no health insurance, so profits from the new album – which also includes Michelle Shocked, Michael Penn, the Jayhawks, Matthew Sweet, Buffalo Tom, Maria McKee and the Waterboys’ Mike Scott, among others – will be used to cover her mounting medical expenses. In addition, Williams, 34, plans to use some of the proceeds to launch a new trust fund for other ailing musicians. “I always thought it’d be great if there was a pot that we could all put money into for emergencies,” she says. “It’d be nice to do something so we could take care of ourselves.”
Besides the obvious financial assistance, Sweet Relief should also help focus attention on Williams’s original folk-rock talents. Although she is actively preparing fresh songs and looking for a label home, both of her previous albums are out of print. “Hopefully this will be something that lets people find out about her songs,” says Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum, whose version of Williams’s lyrical “Summer of Drugs” graces the tribute album. “Victoria’s music is an adventure, and her special world has more personality than anything else you’ll ever listen to.”
This story is from the April 1st, 1993 issue of Rolling Stone.