by / January 19th, 2010 /

Kate McGarrigle RIP

Kate McGarrigle, one half of the folk duo The McGarrigle sisters and mother to Rufus and Matha Wainwright has died at the age of 63. After three and a half years, McGarrigle lost her battle to the rare form of cancer Sarcoma, earlier today in Montreal. Despite being described as “gravely ill” in recent months, her Doctors were surprised to see her deliver a three and a half hour performance at the Royal Albert Hall last month. Kate McGarrigle was a strong supporter of The Cedars and had helped them raise “a lot” of money for cancer research since her diagnosis.

Kate and her sister Anna had recorded ten studio albums in a career spanning over forty years, their last being the 2005 Christmas album ‘The McGarrigle Christmas Hour’, which featured her entire family on backing vocals, along with longtime admirers Emmylou Harris and Beth Orton. Whilst unquestionably rooted in country music, the McGarrigle Sisters branched out into many other genres of music in recent years, which led to them providing the backing vocals to Nick Drake’s 2001, No More Shall We Part. They were renowned for their high, thin voices which harmonised effortlessly and their mixture of French and English lyrics. Their most recent hit was a version of folk-standard ‘Little Boxes’ in French, which later would become the theme tune to the US drama ‘Weeds’.

She had a difficult marriage to Loudon Wainwright III, whom she divorced in 1970. The matriarch of this family, she taught her children music and took an active role in their careers. She has been described as a “warm friend and loving mother” by staff at her hospital. She was not the parent in question in Martha’s ‘Bloody Motherf*cking Asshole’.

Rufus Wainwright has cancelled his tour of Australia today, but has promised to return before the end of the year. It is expected he will return for his US shows in the middle of February, a spokesman said.