By Thomas Conner
© Tulsa World
One of the many bonuses of being a Loudon Wainwright fan
is discovering his immensely talented children. On Loudon's
previous record, he sang a duet with his daughter Martha, a
formidable singer on her own and currently being courted by
Martha's brother Rufus, however, beat her to the punch.
The ballyhooed DreamWorks record label this month released
Rufus Wainwright's astonishing self-titled debut to the
accolades of critics across the continent.
"I definitely have the writers under my spell," the
younger Wainwright said in an interview earlier this month.
"My favorite review said that I sounded like a cross between
Kurt Weill and the Partridge Family."
It's an apt description if you can fathom it. Rufus
Wainwright's "modern standards" or "popera" is worthy of its
other high comparisons, such as to Irving Berlin and
especially Cole Porter.
"I really want to be the next Wagner," he adds.
Rufus plays piano, unlike his acoustic guitar-playing
dad. Loudon divorced Rufus' mother — another noted folk
singer, Kate McGarrigle of the McGarrigle Sisters — when
Rufus was very young, and Rufus was raised chiefly by
McGarrigle in Montreal.
That accounts for a good deal of the operatic and French
influences on his rich, warm songs. But is Generation X
ready for this kind of sweeping, orchestrated pop?
"Are you kidding? They need it. They're dying for it,"
Rufus said. "My main objective is to be in that great
American songwriter tradition, like Porter and Gershwin ...
Some reviews say I'm retro, but I'm not. I'm just doing the
art of songwriting, which really hasn't changed much in
thousands of years. I'm not doing sounds, I'm doing songs."
But while Loudon spent a career singing mostly
autobiographical songs about "Bein' a Dad," Rufus doesn't go
for the first-person approach. He can't spend his life
writing answer-songs to his father, he said.
"He goes right for the nugget, my dad," Rufus said.
"Sometimes I thought he used the family in a vicious way
when he wrote about us, but then I realized that it's just
the way he does it. It's whatever gets your goat. He wrote
beautiful songs about the family, as well. "My songs are
more innate. I'm still pretty much the central figure in
all of them, but I tend to portray myself in songs as more
omniscient, perhaps just as an observer of things around
me. Then the listener can more easily place themselves into
that position. The songs are still about me, but I'm more
hidden. I don't want to embarrass myself."
Rufus now launches his own series of concerts across the
country to support the debut record. His dad said he gave
Rufus a little advice, but not much was necessary.
"I told him to get a good lawyer. But he doesn't need
advice. He's a good performer and funny and nice looking
and an egomaniac. If you ain't got that last one, you might
as well hang it up in this business ... Plus, he and his
sister have watched their parents make so many mistakes,
and that suffices as advice. I'm just hoping in the end
that they'll buy me a house."
And how did Loudon react when he found out that Rufus
was an openly gay performer?
"He didn't care one bit," Rufus said. "One day he just
turned to me and asked, `So do you like guys or girls or
what?' I was a pretty flamboyant little child. He claims he
knew from age 4."
These online "clips" reproduce a self-selection of my journalism (music etc) during the last 20+ years. It's a lotta stuff, but it only scratches the surface. I do not currently possess the time or resources to digitize the whole body of work. These posts are simply a bunch of pretty great days at the office.