Monday, July 22, 2013

July 22: singer-songwriter and composer Rufus Wainwright - "Halleluiah"- is 40-years-old today.

Rufus McGarrigle Wainwright was born in Rhinebeck, New York, to folk singers Kate McGarrigle and Loudon Wainwright III. His parents divorced when he was three, and he lived with his mother in Montreal for most of his youth.

Wainwright has dual US and Canadian citizenship. He attended high school at the Millbrook School in New York (which would later inspire his song "Millbrook"), and later briefly studied piano at McGill in Montreal. He began playing the piano at age six, and started touring at 13 with "The McGarrigle Sisters and Family,”a folk group featuring Rufus, his sister Martha, his mother Kate, and aunt Anna.

His song "I'm a-Runnin',”which he performed in the film Tommy Tricker and the Stamp Traveller at the age of 14, earned him a nomination for a 1989 Genie Award for Best Original Song. He was also nominated for a 1990 Juno Award for Most Promising Male Vocalist of the Year.

Wainwright became interested in opera during his adolescence, and the genre strongly influences his music. (For instance, the song "Barcelona" features lyrics from the libretto of Giuseppe Verdi's opera, Macbeth.) During this time, he became interested in Édith Piaf, Al Jolson, and Judy Garland.

Through weekly shows at Cafe Sarajevo, Wainwright was on the Montreal club circuit and eventually cut a series of demo tapes produced by Pierre Marchand, who later produced Wainwright's album Poses. The resulting tapes impressed his father Loudon, who passed them on to his friend Van Dyke Parks. Parks sent the recordings to Lenny Waronker, the DreamWorks executive who eventually signed Wainwright to his label.

Rufus moved to New York City in 1996, performing regularly at Club Fez. He relocated to Los Angeles that year and began his first studio album, 1998's Rufus Wainwright. Waronker paired Wainwright with producer Jon Brion. Wainwright recorded 56 songs in total, on 62 rolls of tape. The self-titled album received critical acclaim; Rolling Stone called it as one of the best albums of the year, and named the singer "Best New Artist" of the year.

Wainwright was nominated for four awards by the Gay & Lesbian American Music Awards, including Album of the Year, Pop Recording of the Year and Video of the Year, and won for Best New Artist. Rufus Wainwright won a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Music Album and a Juno Award for Best Alternative Album.

However, commercial success of the album was limited; the debut failed to chart in any country, though he ranked No.24 on Billboard's Top Heatseekers chart.

He was also nominated for a BRIT Award for Best International Male Artist in 2008 and a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album in 2009. Wainwright also won two Juno Awards for Best Alternative Album, one in 1999 for Rufus Wainwright and one in 2002 for Poses.

Besides singing, Rufus plays piano and guitar, often switching between the two instruments when performing live. His later work is often accompanied by rock instrumentation or a symphony orchestra, displaying complex layering and harmonies with an operatic feel.

Martha Wainwright, mother Kate McGarrigle, and Rufus in 2006 
Some of Wainwright's songs are described as "popera" (pop opera) or "baroque pop.”Many of his compositions are densely packed amalgams of strings, horns, operatic choruses, ragtime rhythms, with a warm vocal timbre.

He often performs with his sister, Martha Wainwright, on backup vocals. Despite critical acclaim, Wainwright has experienced limited commercial success in the US.

Wainwright sometimes sings about his family relationships. "Beauty Mark,”"Little Sister" and "Martha,”and "Dinner at Eight" address, respectively, his experiences with his mother, sisters, and father.


For more about Rufus, visit his Website at -


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