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Kate & Anna McGarrigle

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Kate & Anna McGarrigle
Kate (left) and Anna McGarrigle, 1981
Kate (left) and Anna McGarrigle, 1981
Background information
OriginMontreal, Quebec, Canada
GenresFolk rock, country folk
Occupation(s)Musicians, singer-songwriters
Years active1975–2010

Kate McGarrigle (February 6, 1946 – January 18, 2010) and Anna McGarrigle (born December 4, 1944) were a duo of Canadian singer-songwriters (and sisters) from Quebec, who performed until Kate McGarrigle's death on January 18, 2010.

Music career


In the 1960s, in Montreal, while Kate was studying chemical engineering at McGill University and Anna art at the École des beaux-arts de Montréal, they began performing in public and writing their own songs. From 1963 to 1967 they teamed up with Jack Nissenson and Peter Weldon to form the folk group Mountain City Four.

Their songs have been covered by a variety of artists including Linda Ronstadt,[1] Emmylou Harris,[1] Judy Collins,[1] and others. These covers led to the McGarrigles getting their first recording contract in 1974. They released their eponymous debut album in 1976,[note 1] and created nine more albums through 2008.[1]

Although associated with Quebec's anglophone community, they also recorded and performed many songs in French. Two of their albums, Entre la jeunesse et la sagesse and La vache qui pleure, are entirely in French.

Their version of Wade Hemsworth's song, "The Log Driver's Waltz" grew famous as the soundtrack for a 1979 animated film directed by John Weldon at Canada's National Film Board. They provided backing vocals on Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds's 2001 album No More Shall We Part.

They continued to write, record and perform music into the 21st century, with assorted accompanying artists including Gerry Conway, Pat Donaldson, Ken Pearson, Michel Pépin, Chaim Tannenbaum and Joel Zifkin.[3]

Personal lives


Anna and Kate McGarrigle were born in Montreal of mixed Irish- and French-Canadian background. They grew up in Saint-Sauveur, where they learned piano from nuns. In 1971 Kate married the singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III. Their children, Rufus and Martha, are also both singers. The two divorced in 1976. Kate McGarrigle died in 2010, aged 63, of sarcoma, a rare form of cancer.[8][9]

Anna McGarrigle was married to Canadian journalist and author Dane Lanken until his death on March 3, 2023. The couple had two children, Lily Lanken and Sylvan Lanken, and lived in North Glengarry, Ontario, just west of the Quebec border. Dane appeared as a vocalist on several of the sisters' albums and in 2007 wrote their career biography. Another sister, Jane McGarrigle (born April 26, 1941), is a film and television composer who acted as business manager for Kate and Anna, and also wrote and performed several songs with the duo.[3]: 114 

Honours and awards


They were appointed Members of the Order of Canada in 1993 and received the Governor General's Performing Arts Award in 2004.[10] On November 22, 2006, they received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2006 SOCAN Awards in Toronto.[11]

They received the 2010 Mojo Roots Award, which was presented by Emmylou Harris. The award was accepted by Anna and Kate's children Rufus and Martha Wainwright, as Kate had died early that year on January 18.[12]





With other artists





  • The McGarrigle Hour (1999) – with Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright, Loudon Wainwright, Chaim Tannenbaum, Jane McGarrigle, Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt and Lily Lanken).
  • 2009 – A Not So Silent Night (2009) – with Rufus and Martha Wainwright.

Film work




Lanken, Dane (2007). Kate and Anna McGarrigle Songs and Stories. Canada: Penumbra Press. ISBN 978-1-897323-04-5.

Lanken, Dane (2007). Thirty-three Kate and Anna McGarrigle Songs. Canada: Penumbra Press. ISBN 978-1-897323-05-2.

McGarrigle, Anna; McGarrigle, Jane (2015). Mountain City Girls. Canada: Penguin Random House. ISBN 978-0-345-81402-9.


  1. ^ a b Various sources use the album's recording date of '1975'[2]: 315  also as the release date, but several reliable sources in books[3]: 30–31 [4]: 316 [5]: 162  and newspaper articles, both in the US[6][7] and the UK,[8] indicate or cite '1976' and 'January 1976' as the release date.


  1. ^ a b c d "McGarrigle sisters writing a memoir". Toronto Daily Star, April 14, 2014, E2.
  2. ^ McGarrigle, Anna & Jane (2015). Mountain City Girls. Canada: Penguin Random House. ISBN 978-0-345-81402-9. We began recording in New York City in late 1974 and finished nine months later in LA, with Joe [Boyd] and Greg [Prestopino] co-producing.
  3. ^ a b c Lanken, Dane (2007). Kate and Anna McGarrigle Songs and Stories. Canada: Penumbra Press. ISBN 978-1-897323-04-5. Kate & Anna McGarrigle January 1976
  4. ^ McGarrigle, Anna & Jane (2015). Mountain City Girls. Canada: Penguin Random House. ISBN 978-0-345-81402-9. In preparation for the tour to support our new record, which was due out in January 1976, Kate and I began rehearsals with a band in NYC.
  5. ^ Brend, Mark (2002). Rock and Roll Doctor. San Francisco: Backbeat Books. p. 162. ISBN 978-1-4768-5201-0 – via Internet Archive. Kate & Anna McGarrigle 1976 (US Warner Bros BS2862, UK 56218)
  6. ^ Women Who Are Making Music, by John Rockwell in The New York Times, January 15, 1976. (See Lanken, Dane (2007), page 30)
  7. ^ Kate & Anna McGarrigle, in Billboard, January 17, 1976. (See Lanken, Dane (2007), page 31)
  8. ^ a b Russell, Tony (January 19, 2010). "Kate McGarrigle obituary". theguardian.com. Retrieved February 22, 2016. Their first album, [...] simply titled Kate & Anna McGarrigle (1976), ...
  9. ^ "Kate McGarrigle, Rufus Wainwright's mother, dies". Reuters. January 19, 2010. Retrieved January 1, 2021.
  10. ^ Betty Nygaard King. "Kate and Anna McGarrigle". Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Retrieved August 17, 2019.
  11. ^ "2006 Socan Awards | Socan". Archived from the original on August 10, 2016. Retrieved June 10, 2016.
  12. ^ "The MOJO Roots Award presented to Kate and Anna McGarrigle by Emmylou Harris". YouTube. November 18, 2010. Retrieved October 4, 2019.
  13. ^ "Kate & Anna McGarrigle – Toronto, May '82". Discogs. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
  14. ^ a b c d e f Recording Credits
  15. ^ "Kate & Anna McGarrigle – Discography – Sunnyvista". Mcgarrigles.info. Retrieved February 22, 2016.
  16. ^ "Emmylou Harris – Bluebird". Discogs. October 17, 1989. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
  17. ^ "Kate and Anna McGarrigle". Documentary film. National Film Board of Canada. 1981. Retrieved June 29, 2014.