19
Jan
10

Kate McGarrigle “departs in a haze of song and love”

So sad. This one hurts, and I’ve only ever seen Kate McGarrigle in concert once, with her sister of course, and daughter Martha and Emmylou Harris, who flew from Nashville to New York just for that show. It was an intimate and ever so tuneful evening (actually, afternoon), with much wry banter. I felt like I had been invited into the parlor of  an eccentric, funny family of musical geniuses (which they were). Kate was just 63.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The mcgarrigles.com site has this simple announcement:

Sadly our sweet Kate had to leave us last night. She departed in a haze of song and love surrounded by family and good friends. She is irreplaceable and we are broken-hearted. Til we meet again dear sister. ♡

The CBC has an excellent retrospective here with numerous video clips, including two from her final appearance at the Royal Albert Hall last year:

The descriptors “Canadian icon” and “national treasure” are often used as lazy shorthand to refer to those artists who’ve made some sort of impact on our country’s music scene. But Kate McGarrigle was one of the awe-inspiring few who truly deserved those epithets — and then some. McGarrigle, who passed away Monday after a drawn-out battle with clear cell sarcoma (she was diagnosed with the rare form of cancer in 2006), was one of Canada’s legendary voices, a woman who celebrated and elevated the rich history of our country’s musical traditions throughout a career that spanned more than three decades.

Vanity Fair has Songs in the Key of Lacerating, a lengthy piece on the many twists and turns of the McGarrigle/Wainwright family saga.

And there is this priceless mockumentary by Rufus and Martha about their mothers’ scheme for world domination via folk music.

Way too soon. What a tragedy, but departing in a haze of song and love surrounded by family and good friends. That’s a good thing. We should all be so lucky when the time comes.

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3 Responses to “Kate McGarrigle “departs in a haze of song and love””


  1. January 20, 2010 at 11:58 pm

    Nicly put. Tim. That VF article is a ripper – cuts to why the family members are both so eccentric and so ordinary within that. Just another ordinary, eccentric, wildly gifted family.

    There was good book about a group of eccentric mid-20th century Australian artists and writers which styled them as inhabitants of the Coast of Bohemia (the geographical Bohemia being landlocked, of course).

    Kate McGarrigle was another such Coastal Bohemian, I think.

  2. January 21, 2010 at 9:26 am

    Hey Ricky

    I also think, without being able to articulate, she could only have been canadian. Not american. maybe the weird from-another-time nature of the sisters’ music comes from geographic isolation and long cold winters. hell, they could have been minnesotans, then.

    the author of that vf article (which, to my mind, tries too hard to cram the mcgar/wainwright clan into the “dynasty” mold like musical kennedys) has a more intimate, kate-centered reminiscence on the VF site now.

    Who were some of the artists in that aussie group?

    glad to have you back reading the blog, mate!


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