Folk singer Kate McGarrigle dies
Quebecer teamed with sister Anna to record 10 albums
Last Updated: Tuesday, January 19, 2010 | 10:22 PM ET
Canadian folk and roots music singer Kate McGarrigle, best known for her work with her sister Anna as the McGarrigle Sisters, has died at age 63.
McGarrigle, who was born in Montreal, died there Monday night after battling a rare form of cancer, confirmed her brother-in-law, journalist Dane Lanken.
She is the mother of musicians Rufus and Martha Wainwright through her previous marriage with American singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III, a beloved folk icon in Canada.
Reports that McGarrigle was critically ill surfaced over the weekend after her son cancelled his tour of Australia and New Zealand, scheduled to begin in February, to be with her.
McGarrigle died peacefully and surrounded by friends and family in her home on Monday night, said Dr. Roger Tabah, one of the team at the Montreal General Hospital that had treated her.
McGarrigle 'departed in a haze of song and love'
McGarrigle had battled sarcoma for 3½ years before taking a turn for the worse in December, Lanken said.
She had a very cutting wit that she kept until falling into a coma Saturday, Lanken said.
"She was very stoic about ... [her illness]," Lanken said. "Life is a lottery and I think she understood that."
A posting on the McGarrigle Sisters' official website, attributed to Anna, read: "She departed in a haze of song and love surrounded by family and good friends. She is irreplaceable and we are broken-hearted."
Kate and Anna McGarrigle, known for the originality of their music and their vocal harmonies, performed together for three decades.
Decades of successes
The McGarrigle Sisters recorded 10 albums in French and English, and their songs have been covered by artists such as Linda Ronstadt, Billy Bragg and Emmylou Harris.
Kate McGarrigle, who was of mixed English and French-Canadian heritage, was born on Feb. 6, 1946, and grew up in Saint-Sauveur-des-Monts, Que. Her sister Anna is two years older. They took piano lessons from the village nuns and sang together as a family while growing up.
"Any time you spent at the McGarrigle house, music was just a part of every day life," Lanken said. "One would sit and sing little Beatles or folk songs."
In the 1960s, while studying engineering at McGill University, McGarrigle began performing in the Montreal folk scene with her sister. In a 2005 interview with The Canadian Press, Anna McGarrigle said her father objected to them performing.
The McGarrigle Sisters perform Heart Like a Wheel (1990)
"He would have hated the idea of us becoming professional musicians because he thought professional musicians were bums, people that wandered from town to town," she said, after accepting a lifetime achievement award from ASCAP, the respected American songwriting association.
They began composing their own songs, including Heart Like a Wheel, which was picked up by Ronstadt. On the strength of their songwriting, they were offered a contract with Warner Bros., recording their debut album Kate and Anne McGarrigle in 1975. It was named album of the year by Melody Maker and the No. 2 record of the year by the New York Times.
Other internationally acclaimed albums include Dancer with Bruised Knees, Pronto Monto, an all-French album, Love Over and Over and Heartbeats Accelerating.
Their repertoire includes songs such as:
- Heart Like a Wheel.
- Goin' Back to Harlan.
- Complainte pour Ste. Catherine.
- Love Over and Over.
- Heartbeats Accelerating.
- Talk to Me of Mendocino.
- On My Way to Town.
The 1996 album Matapédia and 1998's The McGarrigle Hour earned them Juno Awards for best roots and traditional album of the year.
The following year, The McGarrigle Hour, featuring performances by Loudon Wainwright, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris, became a TV concert special and a DVD release. In fact, the McGarrigles appeared widely on television, including on Sharon, Lois and Bram's Elephant Show, Saturday Night Live, CTV and CBC.
They performed and recorded with the Irish group The Chieftains, Leonard Cohen, Joan Baez, Maria Muldaur and Quebec's Gilles Vigneault.
In the 2000s, Kate and Anna were invited by producer Hal Willner to participate in a series of concerts celebrating the work of Harry Smith, the filmmaker and collector of American folk music. They performed concerts in Los Angeles, London and New York with artists such as Brian Ferry, Nick Cave, Van Dyke Parks, Jarvis Cocker and Lou Reed.
The McGarrigles' final album, released in 2005, was The McGarrigle Christmas Hour, though they contributed to the Northern Songs in 2008. Kate McGarrigle gave her final performance in Montreal just before Christmas.
Rufus Wainwright said in an interview with London's Telegraph that his musical parents helped set the course of his life.
"The truth is, I've drawn a lot of my creative inspiration from Mum and her background," he said. "She's a very earthy, very instinctual woman, and that comes out in her music. I knew very early on that, like her and Dad, I wanted to be a singer-songwriter."
In 1993, McGarrigle was appointed a member of the Order of Canada.
The extended McGarrigle family has set up a fund in her honour, benefiting the Cedars Cancer Institute.
- 3 for FRIDAY: Fast and Furious 6, Epic and Picture Day by Eli Glasner May. 24, 2013 6:05 PM Eli Glasner takes a quick look at three new films: Picture Day with rising star Tatiana Maslany, the audaciously entertaining Fast and Furious 6 and a nature-themed cartoon for the kids called Epic.
Top News Headlines
- Will Rob Ford's supporters leave Ford Nation?
- The growing controversy over a purported video alleging to show Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine may be testing the faith of even his most die-hard supporters. But experts say Ford's policies may trump whatever personal issues he's facing, and that his supporters may rally behind him. more »
- Royal Bank pledges not to outsource jobs for cash savings
- Royal Bank has promised it will never outsource a Canadian job to a foreign worker solely to save money. more »
- Neil Macdonald: How serious is Obama about curbing the drone surge?
- In a key speech this week, the U.S. president set out a host of supposed new safeguards for America's controversial practice of remote-controlled rough justice. But as Neil Macdonald writes, the underlying rationale for drone use has not fundamentally changed. more »
- Making The Mandela Tapes
- Producer Robin Benger describes how he obtained broadcast access to interviews Nelson Mandela recorded in the 1990s. A CBC Radio Ideas program on the Mandela tapes airs May 28. more »
- Washington police blame bridge collapse on Alberta trucker
- Washington State police say an Alberta trucker was responsible for hitting a steel beam precipitating a bridge collapse on one of the busiest routes in the American northwest. more »
Latest Arts & Entertainment News Headlines
- Rolling Stones to rock with Mississauga choir
- The Rolling Stones take to the stage in Toronto Saturday night, accompanied by a Mississauga high school choir, for the first of three hotly anticipated Canadian concerts. more »
- Robert Bateman Centre to promote more than artist's work
- Celebrated Canadian nature artist Robert Bateman is opening a new gallery in Victoria this weekend, but the artist says the aim is to do much more than showcase his work. more »
- FILM REVIEW: The Hangover Part 3
- In a final outing with the wolf pack, the joke's on us, says Eli Glasner. The Hangover Part 3 is a strangely serious and laugh-free sequel in the popular, offensive and raunchy series. more »
- Fast and Furious 6, Epic and Picture Day
- PM Eli Glasner takes a quick look at three new films: Picture Day with rising star Tatiana Maslany, the audaciously entertaining Fast and Furious 6 and a nature-themed cartoon for the kids called Epic. more »
- Dan Brown's bizarre rituals May. 24, 2013 5:15 PM The author discusses his new novel, Inferno, and the ritual he performs when launching another book.
- David Sedaris on why having a mean dad might just be the key to success May. 24, 2013 2:42 PM
- Toronto Mayor Rob Ford denies using crack cocaine
- Washington police blame bridge collapse on Alberta trucker
- Canada ranks 3rd last in paid vacations
- Dog snared on baited hooks near Grouse Grind trail
- Man accused of killing child in patio crash granted bail
- Amanda Bynes charged for allegedly tossing bong out window
- UBC student took 'nose dive into water' after bridge collapse
- Motorists warned to avoid Washington bridge collapse area
- London attack victim's widow speaks of 'our future together'