Last week I read on Cat Politics’ blog that Kate McGarrigle – one part of the Kate and Anna McGarrigle duo – had died just shy of her 64th birthday. How very sad. Like Cat Politics I discovered the McGarrigles in the 1970s, and over the years have acquired a few of their albums:
- Kate and Anna McGarrigle (1975)
- Dancer with bruised knees (1977)
- The French record (Entre Lajeunesse et la sagesse) (1981)
- The McGarrigle hour (1998)
All wonderful. For those rare ones of you out there who don’t know them, they sing, write songs, and play instruments. Kate was married to musician Loudon Wainwright III (who wrote that silly fun song of my youth, “Dead skunk in the middle of the road”!) and is mother to musicians Rufus and Martha Wainwright. Oh, and they are Canadian.
And like that other wonderful contemporary Canadian singer-songwriter, Leonard Cohen, Kate and Anna are poets. I know that’s a bit simplistic – most songs can be seen as poetry (or at least as verse!) – but Kate and Anna’s words (with sometimes unusual rhythms) and music, in songs like “Heart like a wheel” (Anna) and “Talk to me of Mendocino” (Kate), have a plaintive beauty that resonates long after the song is over. Add to this their mesmerising voice tones and lovely harmonies and you have the whole package.
There are many obituaries out there and so I am not going to ramble on but, for those interested – and who haven’t seen it already – here is a link to Kate and Anna singing “Heart like a wheel” in 1990.
And let the sun set on the ocean
I will watch it from the shore
Let the sun rise over the redwoods
I’ll rise with it till I rise no more
(Talk to me of Mendocino, Kate McGarrigle)