I need to check the news more or something--I'm so mortified and ashamed that I didn't even learn that Kate McGarrigle had died (in January!) until I picked up a recent New Yorker and read about how her son Rufus Wainwright is grieving.
I don't have any great Kate McGarrigle stories--I did have the good fortune a few years back to see her join Rufus and Martha at Radio City Music Hall on her song "Talk To Me of Mendocino," and if memory serves, she and her sister Anna also joined Rufus and his opening act, Sean Lennon, on "Across the Universe," a multi-generational prayer if I ever heard one. I don't know a lot of the McGarrigle sisters' music, but what I know of it I love; I think Rufus' ode to his mother's "Beauty Mark" is the best child's song for a parent that I know of; and the brilliant, unsentimental song "Heart Like a Wheel," though in fact penned by her sister Anna, belongs forever to them both. Below, my favorite rendition of the song, by Billy Bragg (a tip of the hat to playwright Justin Tanner for introducing this version to me), following by McGarrigles' gorgeous rendition (Kate's at the piano).