Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sad News Today ... The Passing of Kate McGarrigle

I can't properly convey the profound sadness I felt, when scanning through the paper today, passing over the Obits, and seeing that folk singer Kate McGarrigle, of the famed McGarrigle Sisters, passed away.

It's not that I was a devoted fan, and follower, of the McGarrigle Sisters, or Folk Music, overall.

Yet, I had some unusual awareness of them.

They came through Boston, fairly regularly, and with that, I would hear them on NPR, or local radio.

And, it always struck me, on how the McGarrigle Sisters had something beyond cool, something so special, beyond their talents.

Imagine having a career, with your sibling, with something you love, something you had engaged in, virtually, your entire life ...

How many people can claim that?

Born in Montreal and raised in St.-Sauveur-des-Monts, a small town about 50 miles north, Ms. McGarrigle absorbed a range of musical traditions around a musical hearth. Her father, Frank, was of Irish-Canadian stock and steeped in Stephen Foster and turn-of-the-century parlor songs; from her mother, Gaby, she and her two elder sisters — the oldest McGarrigle sister, Jane, was a church organist — learned old songs in French.

“Music was always there at home,” Kate McGarrigle said in a 1997 interview in Sing Out! magazine. “At parties, somebody would get up and sing, and my father would accompany them and sing the harmony. There were lots of friends and uncles and each would get up and give their big song.”


Love and family life were central themes in both women’s music, and their songs often addressed romance’s place in the quotidian details of life. Kate McGarrigle’s 1990 song “I Eat Dinner” contemplates love lost among the leftovers, and both sisters’ “Matapedia,” from 1996, is based on a real event in Kate’s life, when an old flame saw her 17-year-old daughter, Martha, and mistook her for her mother.

Martha, like Rufus, has become a noted singer and songwriter. Their father is the singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III, who was married to Ms. McGarrigle in the 1970s.

So sad, as Kate McGarrigle was only 63.

Kate and Anna McGarrigle : Ce Matin

Kate and Anna McGarrigle : Cool River

Kate and Anna McGarrigle: Petite Annonce

You can visit the McGarrigle's website here

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