Updated January 2018
Kate (6th February 1946 – 18th January 2010) and Anna (born 4th December 1944) McGarrigle, Canadian singer-song-writing sisters from Quebec, performed as a duo until Kate’s death on 18th January 2010. Another sister, Jane (aka Janie) McGarrigle, is a film and television composer who sometimes wrote and performed with Kate & Anna, but was not a regular collaborator.
Anna and Kate McGarrigle were born in Montreal of mixed Irish and French-Canadian background, but spent their childhood in the Laurentian Mountains village of Saint-Sauveur-des-Monts, northwest of Montreal, where they learned piano from village nuns. In the 1960s, in Montreal, whilst Kate was studying engineering at McGill University and Anna art at the École des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, they began performing in public and then began 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. Kate and Anna continued to write, record and perform music into the twenty-first century with assorted accompanying musicians including Gerry Conway, Pat Donaldson (see also the Heads Hands & Feet Lyric List), Ken Pearson, Michel Pépin, Chaim Tannenbaum and Joel Zifkin.
Their songs have been covered by a wide variety of artists including Maria Muldaur, Nana Mouskouri, Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, Billy Bragg, Chloé Sainte-Marie, Judy Collins, Anne Sofie von Otter and others. Covers of their songs by well-known artists led to the McGarrigles getting their first recording contract in 1974. They made ten albums from 1975 to 2008.
Although associated with Quebec’s Anglophone community, the McGarrigles also recorded and performed many songs in French. Two of their albums, Entre la jeunesse Et La Sagesse (aka French Record) and La Vache Qui Pleure, are entirely in French (with the exception of one track), but many of their other records include one or two French language tracks. Most of their French songs were co-written by Philippe Tatartcheff, with occasional input from Kate McGarrigle’s son, Rufus Wainwright. Rufus and his sister, singer Martha Wainwright, are the children of Kate and her former husband, singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III.
The McGarrigles have performed or recorded with the Irish group The Chieftains, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds on their 2001 No More Shall We Part album, Emmylou Harris on her albums Bluebird, Wrecking Ball, Western Wall: The Tucson Sessions, Light of the Stable, Stumble into Grace, and All I Intended to Be, Lou Reed on his concept album The Raven, Joan Baez on her live recording Ring Them Bells, Gilles Vigneault on ‘Charlie-Jos’ on his album C’est Ainsi Que J’arrive à Toi, and Robin Holcomb on her 2002 album The Big Time. All are included herewith.
Their version of Wade Hemsworth’s ‘The Log Driver’s Waltz’ became famous as the soundtrack for a 1979 animated film by the Canadian National Film Board. They appeared on the children’s TV show Sharon, Lois & Bram’s Elephant Show in Season 4, episode 50 entitled ‘Sibling Rivalry’.
They were appointed Members of the Order of Canada in 1993 and received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award in 2004. On 18th January 2010 Kate died, aged 63, from a rare form of cancer.
Enjoy viewing the complete Kate & Anna McGarrigle song lyrics.