Saturday, January 30, 2010

Kate McGarrigle

I saw Kate & Anna play at the Winnipeg Playhouse in 1979. (If you tell me it was ’78 I’ll believe you.) I remember that Anna was visibly pregnant, but I didn’t notice until my date pointed it out. Typical male.

She wasn’t impressed, my date. I said ok, they didn’t come across in that venue, you don’t get the harmonies, the subtleties of the banjo – accordion – harmonica interplay. I said come down to the radio station tomorrow.

She came. It was the university radio station, consisted of two rooms, and I had a spot for an hour a week, dj the DJ. Listen, I said. I don’t remember what I played, probably something from the first album, The Swimming Song maybe, or Foolish You, which is what I’d play now. She listened and said ok, you’re right, I get it, they are amazing.

I cottoned on to the McGarrigle Sisters when Stereo Review labeled their debut Best Of The Month. It was not my normal practice to go out and buy albums based on reviews, and I don’t know why I did then. The magazine, I believe, was the February 1976 issue, though I was out of the country then; it must have been later, in the summer perhaps, that I picked up the magazine at the library, back in the day.

The album didn’t thrill me, I’ll be honest. It was ok, it had its moments. I didn’t care for Go Leave, to stark, and Talk To Me Of Mendocino, the one that everyone raves over, well, I don’t know, I was underwhelmed.

But the fast songs, all those banjos going on, they sold me. Complainte Pour Ste Catherine, I loved it, though I had no idea what it was about until I came here to Montreal, and read somewhere that it’s about the main street downtown. And having picked up a smattering of French I can even make out a few of the words.

The slow stuff, it grew on me. Heart Like A Wheel, who could resist. I kept up with them until Heartbeats Accelerating. I didn’t know too many people who listened to them. In fact, I don’t know if I knew anyone else who listened to them. I guess they were one of pop music’s best kept secrets.

When I came to live in this neighbourhood, and that was in June of 2008, I found their CDs in abundance at the local library, so I’ve been listening to them all over again, and rediscovering their music, and so yeah, as clichéd as this sounds, and I’m sorry for that, but Kate’s passing personally affected me. And seeing her obituary in this morning’s Gazette was strange, like she was just another person, just like any one of us, but I guess that’s exactly what she was, except one of us with amazing talent and gift that was unique in the world.


Susan Gatin said...

I was 17 and a prairie girl having a great summer in Prince Rupert, BC, where one of our great friends knew Kate & Anna McGarrigle from Montreal, and played their first album for us. We were smitten and I too have been following them ever since. I saw them live at the Orpheum in Vancouver - must have been the same tour because I remember Anna being pregnant. Later,I was listening to Kate's song about the firstborn son (that son of a gun!) around the time I was having my daughters.
Anyway, I join you in feeling a kind of personal loss with the news of Kate's death. She was a true original.

Campbie™ said...

she was a good friend. The sister i never had.

Locations of visitors to this page