Kate McGarrigle dies at age 63

Very sad news: Kate McGarrigle has died, her manager confirms. The beloved Canadian folk singer was 63. The CBC reports that she passed away on Jan. 18 after fighting a rare cancer.

McGarrigle first found fame in the 1970s, performing songs in French and English with her older sister Anna, often billed as the McGarrigle Sisters. From the start, they reveled in creating the kind of perfectly matched vocal harmonies that only a pair of talented siblings can pull off. More voices joined the chorus when Kate McGarrigle’s children Rufus and Martha Wainwright (born during her marriage to singer Loudon Wainwright III) joined the family trade and began careers of their own in later years. Kate McGarrigle went on to perform frequently with her sister and kids, helping introduce a new generation of fans to her work. This writer was lucky enough to see them all on stage more than once, most recently at Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday celebration last May. You can watch a clip of McGarrigle and Rufus performing “Over the Rainbow” last July after the jump.

“When inevitably I read today in the papers that my mother lost her battle with cancer last night, I am filled with an immense desire to add that this battle, though lost, was tremendously fruitful during these last three and a half years of her life,” Rufus Wainwright said in a statement posted online. “She witnessed her daughter’s marriage, the creation of my first opera, the birth of her first grandchild Arcangelo, and gave the greatest performance of her life to a packed crowd at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Not to mention traveling to some of the world’s most incredible places with both my sister, her husband Brad, my boyfriend Jorn and myself. Yes, it was all too brief, but as I was saying to her sister Anna last night while sitting by her body after the struggle had ceased, there is never enough time and she, my amazing mother with whom everyone fell in love, went out there and bloody did it. I will miss you mother, my sweet and valiant explorer, lebwohl and adio. X”

The Music Mix extends its condolences to Kate McGarrigle’s family, friends, and fans. Please share your memories of her in the comments section.

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)

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Photo credit: Leon/RD/Retna

Comments (13 total) Add your comment
  • Rock Golf

    Heartbroken like a wheel.

  • keith

    I’m a huge fan of the entire family. Really sad to hear this and send my condolences to them all, especially Rufus and Martha.

    • Auth

      She was an ahontissing musician and world’s most devoted mom. I love listening to her singing with her kids and her very talented sister. I think Leonard Cohen said “The entire Wainwright family is keeping my songs alive.”

  • Su

    Hearts have a way of calling when they’ve been true. x

  • sophia

    How sad. i was lucky enough to see the mcgarrigle sisters perform many times, and in later years the whole beautifully talented family. they were exceptional performers and stunning musicians. kate was especially beloved – with a poignancy and depth to her voice and music that will be deeply missed.

  • WhitneyD

    Oh, I’m so sad to hear this, and wish the best for the family.

  • Sharon

    In November of 2008 Rufus gave two concerts in Tel Aviv, accompanied by his mother. She also sang a few songs, and I feel very fortunate to have experienced her amazing talent and the wonderful music she made with her family.

  • Steve Payne

    “When inevitably I read in the papers.. that my mother had died of cancer.” You know, families used to gather together in death. Once upon a time. At least she got to see his opera, which seems to be high on his list about her life. Creep!

    • bwyoga

      very sad news. such a talented family. may she soar high with all her kindred spirits. and steve, if you read rufus’ statement properly, you would’ve understood that he was with his beloved mother when she took her last breath. give the poor man a break. he toured with her and they seemed to enjoy this immensely. he just lost her. let him grieve in peace.

  • Steve Payne

    I stand corrected, Rufus was with his mother at her side. My comment was in extreme bad taste, erroneous, cold-hearted and self indulgent. I apologize. What was wrong with me?

  • claudia

    What sad news. I love the McGarrigle sisters music and only discovered Rufus and Martha when watching their tributes to Leonard Cohen in “I’m Your Man.” It was wonderful to see the sisters and Rufus and Martha. My heart goes out to Rufus and Martha and Anna. So sad to loose such an incredible woman.

  • kate dela cruz

    im so sorry for her…she is un incedible woman…i think…

  • Candice

    Hey May ! Happy New Year ! You know what was cool , and all sninroyisctc and what not ? I was reading this post this morning , drinking my coffee , and that very song came on the radio . Cool beans . Oh , by the way , weather update from Maine , it was three degrees this morning , with a thirty mile an hour wind coming out of Canada , that made the wind chill something like twenty below !! Brrr ! Just about froze my twigs and berries off on my walk ! Shrinkage ! LOL

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