CBC Digital Archives

Kate and Anna McGarrigle, musical sisters

It's 1977, and the young McGarrigle sisters are starting to attract attention in the musical world. With their twining harmonies, thoughtful lyrics, and eclectic instrumentation, their songs have become favourites in the U.K. and the United States, and now their star is rising at home in Canada. CBC TV's Adrienne Clarkson spends time with the pair as they rehearse, perform, shop, cook and share their thoughts on their new-found fame. (Look for Kate's three-year-old son, Rufus Wainwright, struggling to pour his own milk!)
• Anna McGarrigle was born Dec. 4, 1944 and her sister Kate was born on Feb. 6, 1946, both in Saint-Sauveur-des-Monts, Que.
  • Kate and Anna began playing piano as children and continued to pursue music as they grew up. They performed at clubs while attending university in Montreal, where Kate studied engineering and Anna pursued visual arts.

• During the 1960s, Kate and Anna were part of a Montreal-based folk group called the Mountain City Four (with fellow musicians Peter Weldon and Jack Nissenson). This group is probably best known for its recording of the song The Log Driver's Waltz, which was used in the popular 1979 National Film Board animated short film of the same name.

• Kate and Anna began releasing albums as a duo during the 1970s. Their first album, called Kate and Anna McGarrigle, was released in 1976. It contained one of their best-known songs, Heart Like a Wheel, which had already been covered by singer Linda Ronstadt in 1974.

• Other artists who have covered Kate and Anna's songs over the years include Billy Bragg, The Corrs, Maria Muldaur and Emmylou Harris.

• Kate had two children with American folk singer Loudon Wainwright III, who she divorced during the 1970s while the children were young. Both children - Martha Wainwright and Rufus Wainwright - have become successful musicians in their own right.

• Anna McGarrigle is married to journalist Dane Lanken. The couple has two children, Lily Lanken and Sylvan Lanken.

• Kate and Anna were both invested with the Order of Canada in 1994.

• Kate McGarrigle passed away in January 2010 after battling a rare form of cancer. She was 63 years old.

Medium: Television
Program: The Fifth Estate
Broadcast Date: April 20, 1977
Guest(s): Peggy Colston, Kate McGarrigle, Gabrielle McGarrigle, Anna McGarrigle, Geoffrey Stokes
Host: Adrienne Clarkson
Duration: 9:54
This clip has been edited for copyright reasons.
Travellin' on for Jesus, traditional, arranged by J. Spence; Heart Like a Wheel by Anna McGarrigle, Garden Court Music Co.; Complainte pour Ste- Catherine by Anna McGarrigle and Philippe Tatartcheff, Les Editions Macbec and Bossy Publishing.

Last updated: June 18, 2012

Page consulted on December 5, 2013

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