Loudon Wainwright III

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Loudon Wainwright III
Background information
Birth nameLoudon Snowden Wainwright III
Born (1946-09-05) September 5, 1946 (age 74)
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, U.S.
OriginBedford, New York, U.S.
GenresFolk, rock, blues, comedy
Occupation(s)Singer-songwriter, musician, actor, humorist
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, piano, banjo, ukulele, percussion
Years active1967–present
LabelsAtlantic, Columbia, Legacy, Arista, Radar, Rounder, Silvertone, Charisma, Hannibal, Demon, Verve, Rykodisc, Red House, Sanctuary Records, 2nd Story Sound Records, Sovereign Artists, Concord, Proper Records
Associated actsKate & Anna McGarrigle, White Cloud, George Gerdes, Richard Thompson, Chaim Tannenbaum, Spinal Tap, The Roches, Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright, Lucy Wainwright Roche, Joe Henry
Loudon Wainwright at BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2015, at which he and Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens both received a 'lifetime achievement award'.[1]

Loudon Snowden Wainwright III (born September 5, 1946) is an American songwriter, folk singer, humorist, and actor. His sister is Sloan Wainwright. He is the father of musicians Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright, and Lucy Wainwright Roche, and is the former husband of the late folk singer Kate McGarrigle.

To date, Wainwright has released 24 studio albums, 4 live albums and 6 compilations, as well as appearing in at least 18 television programmes and feature films. Reflecting upon his career in 1999, he stated, "You could characterize the catalog as somewhat checkered, although I prefer to think of it as a tapestry."[2] In October 2017, Wainwright released his autobiography, Liner Notes: On Parents & Children, Exes & Excess, Death & Decay, and a Few of My Other Favorite Things.

Early life[edit]

Wainwright was born in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the son of Martha Taylor, a yoga teacher, and Loudon Wainwright Jr., a columnist and editor for Life magazine.[3] His great-great-grandfather was the politician and diplomat A. Loudon Snowden. His father was not a professional musician, but he played the piano and wrote some songs, exposing his children to musicians such as Tom Lehrer and Stan Freberg, whom Wainwright later cited as influences.[4] Wainwright grew up in Bedford, New York, in Westchester County. Among his sisters is Sloan Wainwright, also a singer. He graduated from St. Andrew's School in Delaware, where the movie Dead Poets Society was filmed.


Wainwright's career began in the late 1960s. He had played the guitar while in school but later sold it for yoga lessons while living in San Francisco. Later, in Rhode Island, Wainwright's grandmother got him a job working in a boatyard. An old lobsterman named Edgar inspired him to borrow a friend's guitar and write his first song, "Edgar". Wainwright soon bought his own guitar and in about a year wrote nearly twenty songs. He went to Boston and New York City to play in folk clubs and was eventually noticed by Milton Kramer, who became his manager. He signed a record deal with Atlantic Records, which released his self-tiled first album in 1970.

Wainwright is perhaps best known for the 1972 novelty song "Dead Skunk (in the Middle of the Road)" and for playing Captain Calvin Spalding (the "singing surgeon") on the American television show M*A*S*H. His appearances spanned three episodes in its third season (1974–1975).[5]

Using a witty, self-mocking style, Wainwright has recorded over twenty albums on eleven different labels. Three of his albums have been nominated for Grammy Awards: I'm Alright (1985), More Love Songs (1986),[6] and High Wide & Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project (2009), for which he won the Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album in January 2010.

Wainwright has also appeared in a number of films, including small parts in The Aviator, Big Fish, Elizabethtown, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and Knocked Up, and the television series Undeclared and Parks and Recreation.[5] In the UK he recorded sessions for John Peel from 1971 onwards and appeared on a simultaneous broadcast on BBC TV and on Radio 1 in February 1978 (known as Sight and Sound in Concert).[7] However, it was in the late 1980s that he gained much wider popularity in Britain when he appeared as the resident singer with comedian Jasper Carrott in his UK show, Carrott Confidential, and has remained popular in the UK ever since.

He appeared as a musical guest on Saturday Night Live in the first season's fifth episode, which was broadcast on November 15, 1975. He performed "Bicentennial" and "Unrequited to the Nth Degree" as a guest of host Robert Klein.

Wainwright has claimed that, like many of his contemporaries, he was inspired musically by seeing Bob Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival in 1963. He was one of many young folksingers tagged as the "new Dylan" in the early 1970s, a fact that he later ruefully satirized in his song, "Talking New Bob Dylan", from the album History (1992).[6]

Wainwright was a judge for the 4th annual Independent Music Awards.[8]

According to his own liner notes, Wainwright entered a period of deep depression following the death of his mother in 1997 and believed he could never write again. Retreating to his mother's cabin in the woods, he underwent therapy and gradually recovered, eventually recording the soul-baring Last Man on Earth in 2001. Since then, his recording career has mostly returned to its previous frequency.

In September 2006, Wainwright and musician Joe Henry began composing the music for the Judd Apatow film Knocked Up, which was released on June 1, 2007. In addition to composing the soundtrack, Wainwright appeared in the film in a supporting role as the protagonists' obstetrician.[9] He has also composed music for the new theatre production of Carl Hiaasen's Lucky You, which premiered at the 2008 Edinburgh Festival Fringe.[10]

As of 2020 Wainwright has continued to release new music.

Personal life[edit]

Wainwright's first marriage, to the singer-songwriter Kate McGarrigle, ended in divorce. During their marriage, they had two children, Rufus and Martha. Rufus was the inspiration behind two of Wainwright's songs: "Rufus Is a Tit Man" (referring to Rufus during breastfeeding) and "A Father and a Son," a retrospective. Wainwright's songs inspired by Martha are "Pretty Little Martha" (composed about her as an infant), "Five Years Old" (about missing her fifth birthday), the confessional "Hitting You," duet "Father/Daughter Dialogue" and comedy number, "I'd Rather Be Lonely."

Both Rufus and Martha are singer-songwriters. Rufus composed "Dinner at Eight", about his conflicted relationship with his father.[11] Martha composed the song "Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole," which according to her is about her father.[12] They sang a duet on the song "Father Daughter Dialogue" (on Wainwright's 1995 album Grown Man) and collaborated on the song "You Never Phone" (on Wainwright's 2003 album So Damn Happy).

Wainwright had a relationship with the singer Suzzy Roche, during which they had one daughter, Lucy Wainwright Roche, who is also a singer. The relationship ended, although Wainwright and Suzzy Roche remain on good terms and occasionally appear onstage together, sometimes with their daughter.

Wainwright's second marriage, to Ritamarie Kelly, ended in divorce. They have a daughter, Alexandra (Lexie) Kelly Wainwright (born 1993). Since 2015, Wainwright has lived with Susan Morrison, an editor at The New Yorker.[13][14][15]


Studio albums[edit]

Live albums[edit]



  • M*A*S*H (1974-1975) (TV) .... Capt. Calvin Spalding, the singing surgeon. (3 episodes 'Rainbow Bridge', 'There is nothing like a nurse')
  • Saturday Night (1975) (TV) .... Season 1 Episode 5 (Hosted by Robert Klein with Musical Numbers by ABBA and Wainwright III)
  • The T.V. Show (1979) (TV) .... Dead Man on Telethon/Spinal Tap Keyboardist
  • The Slugger's Wife (1985) .... Gary
  • Jacknife (1989) .... Ferretti
  • 28 Days (2000) .... Guitar guy
  • Undeclared (2001) (TV) .... Hal Karp
  • Ally McBeal (2002) (TV) .... Jerome Trouper (Love Is All Around Part 1 & 2)
  • Big Fish (2003) .... Beamen
  • The Aviator (2004) .... Coconut Grove Vocalist No. 2
  • The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005) .... Priest
  • Elizabethtown (2005) .... Uncle Dale
  • For Your Consideration (2006) .... Nominee Ben Connelly
  • Knocked Up (2007) .... Dr. Everett Howard (also composed music)
  • G-Force (2009) .... Grandpa Goodman
  • Parks and Recreation (2009) (TV) .... Barry, a nutso community-forum attendee (Episode 1)
  • Person of Interest (TV series) (2012) (TV) .... Mr. Frey, father of Hanna - the woman who Reese thought was looking for the machine, but was found to be long dead.
  • Sleepwalk with Me (2012) .... Uncle Max
  • Mosaic (2018) .... Casey Delacroix/Dennis Klein, a confidence trickster/a fake persona he created


  1. ^ Thomas, Huw (April 22, 2015). "BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards: Cat Stevens, Loudon Wainwright honours". BBC News. Retrieved August 30, 2017.
  2. ^ "Loudon Wainwright III". Lw3.com. June 20, 1999. Archived from the original on July 27, 2011. Retrieved April 9, 2012.
  3. ^ "Loudon Wainwright, III Biography (1946–)". Filmreference.com. Retrieved March 19, 2014.
  4. ^ Needles, Tim. "Legendary Songwriter Loudon Wainwright III". Short and Sweet NYC. Retrieved January 19, 2012.
  5. ^ a b imdb.com – Loudon Wainwright III Retrieved October 6, 2008
  6. ^ a b "Loudon Wainwright III Web Site: Bio". Archived from the original on July 27, 2011. Retrieved August 25, 2011.
  7. ^ BFI Film & TV Database Retrieved January 16, 2011
  8. ^ Independent Music Awards – Past Judges Archived July 13, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ imdb.com – Knocked Up Retrieved October 6, 2008
  10. ^ "Carl Hiaasen's Lucky You". Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Retrieved July 16, 2008.
  11. ^ DeCurtis, Anthony (August 31, 2003). "Rufus Wainwright Journeys to 'Gay Hell' and Back". The New York Times.
  12. ^ Jinman, Richard (April 15, 2005). "The Guardian profile: The Wainwrights". The Guardian.
  13. ^ Seabrook, John (September 21, 2009). "The Patriarch". The New Yorker.
  14. ^ Dollar, Steve (May 15, 2012). "Barking Up the Family Tree". Wall Street Journal.
  15. ^ Kelly, Lexie. "Wainwright & I" (PDF). Ross School. Retrieved March 25, 2016.

External links[edit]