Kate (1946-2010) & Anna McGarrigle

2004 Lifetime Artistic Achievement (Popular Music)

On the national and international scene as singers, songwriters, performers and recording artists, Kate and Anna McGarrigle have, with elegance and intelligence, beautifully expressed a particular Canadian ideal of the fundamental bonds of music and family.

Born in Montréal of mixed English and French-Canadian origin, Kate and Anna were taught music by the nuns of the Laurentian village of St-Sauveur and developed their passion for music through regular sessions around the family piano. In the 1960s, as high-school students, they were inspired by a Pete Seeger concert in Montréal to form their own trio and subsequently appeared in coffeehouses, leading to popular renown as members of the Mountain City Four.

After each going their own way (Kate studying engineering and Anna painting), they began to write their own songs and achieved a breakthrough at the 1970 Philadelphia Folk Festival, where they opened for Jerry Jeff Walker, who was struck with the power and imagination of their closing number, written by Anna – Heart Like a Wheel, which became a major hit for Linda Ronstadt. In 1975, they recorded their first album, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, for Warner Brothers.

Since that first great success, there have been several equally popular albums, Dancer with Bruised Knees, Pronto Monto, French Record, Love Over and Over, Heartbeats Accelerating, Matapedia, The McGarrigle Hour, and most recently La Vache Qui Pleure.

While they have created hit songs for the likes of Emmylou Harris, Nana Mouskouri, Judy Collins and Maria Muldaur, and have sung with Joan Baez, Lou Reed, Gilles Vigneault, Robert Charlebois, and The Chieftains, headlined the Newport Folk Festival and appeared on David Letterman, it is their commitment to a particular tradition of personal music-making that assures them a place of honour in the Canadian musical pantheon. They have been described variously as a musical embodiment of Emily Dickinson and founders of a unique Canadian musical dynasty. Their own particular sound is inspired by a respect for tradition which has influenced a succeeding generation of artists and lovers of clear, sweet, intelligent and passionate music.

We celebrate this unique musical partnership between the McGarrigle sisters, because their careers clearly demonstrate that a commitment to originality and personal artistic integrity is every bit as important as popular commercial success and that both worlds have merged in the personalities and imaginations of these two beautiful women.