Emmylou Harris Tribute to Kate McGarrigle, ‘Darlin’ Kate’
And now for something completely different. My I-P junkie friends ( I say that lovingly!) will hopefully bear with me as I delve into one of my passions, one which has been stilled over the past few years by all the murder and mayhem in the Middle East. I know friends and enemies sometimes remark on my intemperateness in the comment threads here. So I thought it might be the right time to divert from the usual political fare and delve into different territory, where edges aren’t as hard and there can be more grace.
From the time I was a teenager and my dad took me to see Pete Seeger perform in high school auditoriums throughout the Hudson River Valley, I’ve adored traditional music. Somewhere about the time I was in college I discovered the McGarrigle Sisters and I had the privilege of interviewing Kate for the article I wrote about them for the Encyclopedia of Blues and Folk some years ago.
With great sorrow, I learned that Kate had succumbed to her battle with cancer a year ago. A month ago, Emmylou Harris joined with the Kate’s sister, Anna and their children Rufus and Martha for an memorial tribute at Carnegie Hall. I don’t live in New York anymore and its only unique cultural milestones like this that make me regret that.
But here we have the next best thing. Emmylou penned a gorgeous tribute to Kate on her new album, Hard Bargain. The song is called Darlin’ Kate (hear it), and what can I say–it brought tears to my eyes, as perhaps it will bring tears to yours. Emmylou performed on the McGarrigles wonderful song, Goin’ Back to Harlan. And clearly, from the lyrics you can tell that Kate was the love of Emmylou’s life, or at least one of ’em.
This song represents the greatness of the human spirit and the triumphal power of music to enter spiritual realms. The lyrics are so perfect, so pure that I offer them to you in full here:
So it’s finally come, you have left this world
But we’ll miss our Kate, our darling girl
We held your head, kissed your lovely brow
And bid farewell, you’re sailing now
Free from the pain, you lay that burden down
But you’re strong and giving heart
Would surely be your crown
As you slip the surly bonds of earth and sailed way
Perhaps we will meet again somehow, someday
Until then, there’s nothing we can do but wait
To see once more, our darling Kate
All those nights we sang, talked ’till the sun come up
You fed our souls, you filled our cup
With your perfect words and all that voice
We fell in love, we had no choice
And I can’t say for sure where you have gone
But in that place, I’m betting there’s a better song
We’ve all known down here, taste of joy and strife
You were the sweetest note in the chord of life
Now you slipped the surly bonds of earth and sailed way
Perhaps we will meet again somehow, someday
But if there was one name I could consecrate
It would be yours, it would be Kate
- Music Review: Her Folksy Parlor, Crowded With Family and Friends (nytimes.com)
- Kate McGarrigle doc in the works: Rufus Wainwright (cbc.ca)
- Emmylou Harris: Hard Bargain – review (guardian.co.uk)
- A tribute to Kate McGarrigle (arts.nationalpost.com)
6 thoughts on “Emmylou Harris Tribute to Kate McGarrigle, ‘Darlin’ Kate’ – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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Thanks for this one. I never heard of Kate and Anna. But I heard Emmylou Harris perform with Mary Black, an Irish folk singer and my all-time favorite, in the Transatlantic Session Series: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIikAcCHlmI
What a powerful combination of American and Irish folk music … brings tears to my eyes as well …
I just found this one, also from the Transatlantic sessions, with Kate and Anna, and Emmylou and Mary: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YrfLnlrquo
Thanks for that. That album, Transatlantic Sessions with Kate, Anna & Emmylou (& Mary) is available through Amazon.
Just listened to the Stephen Foster song…gorgeous! I’ve heard that song so many, many times sung by so many wonderful performers. But this is IT, the performance sine qua non. Thank you, thank you. It soothes the soul just to hear Kate’s beautiful high harmony once again.
… on the second and third and fourth listening, the song is indeed splendid. Emmylou’s farewell song is also so beautiful …
Incidentally, the other day we spent the whole evening in our backyard playing and singing Dylan’s Blowing in the Wind and Seeger’s Where Have All the Flowers Gone, and many other songs, with our daughter falling asleep on a couch ouside lulled by the music and the songs. The latter song has a beautiful Russian translation. Actually I read that Seeger was inspired to write this song after reading about a similar theme in Sholokhov’s “And Quiet Flows the Don”.
Bob Dylan just turned 70. He’s probably pretty controversial in the US, but I love his Blowing in the Wind.
Thanks for the music links. Mary and Emmylou’s version of “By the time it gets dark” knocks the socks off the original by Sandy Denny — and that is no easy feat. Am I wrong in thinking that Martha Wainwright is a better singer than Rufus?
Frankly I can’t stand Rufus’ quavery tenor. He ‘s the darling of a certain musical crowd but not my taste. Too much of his dad’s eccentric singing style, not enough of his mom’s.
It would be hard to beat anything Sandy Denny put her voice to. I’ll have to listen to that.