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Loudon Wainwright III

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Loudon III

Songwriter ·

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Birth name
Loudon Snowden Wainwright III

September 5, 1946 (age 69)Chapel Hill, North Carolina, U.S. (

Bedford, New York, U.S.

Singer-songwriter, musician, actor, humorist

Vocals, guitar, piano, banjo, ukulele, percussion

Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright, Lucy Wainwright Roche, Alexandra Kelly Wainwright


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Loudon Snowden Wainwright III (born September 5, 1946) is an American songwriter, folk singer, humorist, and actor. He is the father of musicians Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright, and Lucy Wainwright Roche; brother of Sloan Wainwright; and former husband of the late folksinger Kate McGarrigle. He resides in Canada.


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To date, Wainwright has released 26 studio albums. Reflecting upon his career in 1999, he stated, "You could characterize the catalog as somewhat checkered, although I prefer to think of it as a tapestry."

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Early life

Wainwright was born in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the son of Martha Taylor, a yoga teacher, and Loudon Wainwright, Jr., a columnist and editor for Life magazine. His great-great-grandfather was the politician and diplomat A. Loudon Snowden. His father was not a professional musician, but he played the piano and wrote some songs, exposing his children to musicians such as Tom Lehrer and Stan Freberg, whom Wainwright later cited as influences. Wainwright grew up in Bedford, New York, in Westchester County. Among his sisters is Sloan Wainwright, also a singer. He graduated from St. Andrew's School in Delaware.


Wainwright's career began in the late 1960s. He had played the guitar while in school but later sold it for yoga lessons while living in San Francisco. Later, in Rhode Island, Wainwright's grandmother got him a job working in a boatyard. An old lobsterman named Edgar inspired him to borrow a friend's guitar and write his first song, "Edgar". Wainwright soon bought his own guitar and in about a year wrote nearly twenty songs. He went to Boston and New York City to play in folk clubs and was eventually noticed by Milton Kramer, who became his manager. He acquired a record deal with Atlantic Records, which released his first album in 1970.

Wainwright is perhaps best known for the 1972 novelty song "Dead Skunk (in the Middle of the Road)" and for playing Captain Calvin Spalding (the "singing surgeon") on the American television show M*A*S*M*A*S*H. His appearances spanned three episodes in its third season (1974–1975).

Using a witty, self-mocking style, Wainwright has recorded over twenty albums on eleven different labels. Three of his albums have been nominated for Grammy Awards: I'm Alright (1985) and More Love Songs (1986). In January 2010, he won the Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album for High Wide & Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project.

Wainwright has also appeared in a number of films, including small parts in The Aviator, Big Fish, Elizabethtown, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and Knocked Up, and the television series Undeclared and Parks and Recreation. In the UK he recorded sessions for John Peel from 1971 onwards and appeared on a simultaneous broadcast on BBC TV and on Radio 1 in February 1978 (known as Sight and Sound in Concert). However, it was in the late 1980s that he gained much wider popularity in Britain when he appeared as the resident singer with comedian Jasper Carrott in his UK show, Carrott Confidential, and has remained popular in the UK ever since.

He appeared as a musical guest on Saturday Night Live in the first season's fifth episode, which was broadcast on November 15, 1975. He performed "Bicentennial" and "Unrequited to the Nth Degree" as a guest of host Robert Klein.

Wainwright has claimed that, like many of his contemporaries, he was inspired musically by seeing Bob Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival in 1963. He was one of many young folksingers tagged as the "new Dylan" in the early 1970s, a fact that he later ruefully satirized in his song, "Talking New Bob Dylan", from the album History (1992).

Wainwright was a judge for the 4th annual Independent Music Awards.

According to his own liner notes, Wainwright entered a period of deep depression following the death of his mother in 1997 and believed he could never write again. Retreating to his mother's cabin in the woods, he underwent therapy and gradually recovered, eventually recording the soul-baring Last Man on Earth in 2001. Since then his recording career has mostly returned to its previous frequency.

In September 2006, Wainwright and musician Joe Henry began composing the music for the Judd Apatow film Knocked Up, which was released on June 1, 2007. In addition to composing the soundtrack, Wainwright appeared in the film in a supporting role as the protagonists' obstetrician. He has also composed music for the new theatre production of Carl Hiaasen's Lucky You, which premiered at the 2008 Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Wainwright released a new studio album, Older Than My Old Man Now, in April 2012.

Personal life

Wainwright's first marriage, to the singer-songwriter Kate McGarrigle, ended in divorce. During their marriage, they had two children, Rufus and Martha. Rufus was the inspiration behind two of Wainwright's songs: "Rufus Is a Tit Man" (referring to Rufus during breastfeeding) and "A Father and a Son", a retrospective. Wainwright's songs inspired by Martha are "Pretty Little Martha" (composed about her as an infant), "Five Years Old" (about missing her fifth birthday), the confessional "Hitting You", duet "Father/Daughter Dialogue" and comedy number, "I'd Rather Be Lonely".

Both Rufus and Martha are singer-songwriters. Rufus composed "Dinner at Eight", about his conflicted relationship with his father. Martha composed the song "Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole", which according to her is about her father. They sang a duet on the song "Father Daughter Dialogue" (on Wainwright's 1995 album Grown Man) and collaborated on the song "You Never Phone" (on Wainwright's 2003 album So Damn Happy).

Wainwright had a relationship with the singer Suzzy Roche, during which they had one daughter, Lucy Wainwright Roche, who is also a singer. The relationship ended, although Wainwright and Suzzy Roche remained on good terms and occasionally appeared onstage together.

Wainwright was married for the second time in 2005, to Ritamarie Kelly, an actress. They have a daughter, Alexandra (Lexie) Kelly Wainwright (born 1993).

Live albums

  • A Live One (1979)
  • Career Moves (1993)
  • The BBC Sessions (recorded 1971 - 1993, released 1998)
  • So Damn Happy (2003)
  • Bootlegs

  • Live At The Cactus Cafe (recorded 1990, released 2013)
  • Late Night Calls (recorded 1972, released 2015)
  • Compilations

  • One Man Guy: The Best of Loudon Wainwright III 1982–1986 (1994, Music Club, UK)
  • The Atlantic Recordings (1999, Rhino Handmade).
  • Dead Skunk: The Complete Columbia Years (2007, Acadia, UK)
  • Essential Recordings: One Man Guy (Best of Rounder Records Perfect 10 Series) (2009, Rounder Records)
  • 40 Odd Years (2011, Shout! Factory)
  • Singles

  • "Dead Skunk" / "Needless to Say" (Columbia 45726, 1973) (U.S. pop #16)
  • "Say That You Love Me" / "New Paint" (Columbia 45849, 1973)
  • "Down Drinking at the Bar" / "I Am the Way" (Columbia 45949, 1974)
  • "Bell Bottom Pants" / "The Swimming Song" (Columbia 46064, 1974)
  • "Dead Skunk" / "Bell Bottom Pants" (Columbia Hall of Fame 33269, 1975)
  • "Bicentennial" / "Talking Big Apple '75" (Arista 0174, 1976)
  • "Final Exam" / "Golfin' Blues" (Arista 0340, 1978)
  • "Dead Skunk" / "Bell Bottom Pants" (Collectables 33269, 1980)
  • "Five Years Old" / "Rambunctious" (Demon UK 1016, 1983)
  • "Cardboard Boxes" / "Colours" (Demon UK 1039, 1985)
  • "Unhappy Anniversary" / "The Acid Song" (Demon UK 1044, 1986)
  • "Thank You, Girl" (John Hiatt) / "My Girl" (with John Hiatt) (Demon UK 1050, 1987)
  • "Your Mother and I" / "At the End of a Long Lonely Day" (with John Hiatt) (Demon UK 1051, 1987)
  • "T.S.D.M*A*S*H.A.V." / "Nice Guys" (Silvertone ORE 15, 1989)
  • "Jesse Don't Like It" (live) / "T.S.D.H.A.V." (live) (Hannibal 0705, 1990)
  • "Silent Night, Holy Night" (Terry Callier) / "The Little Drummer Boy" (John Scofield & Loudon Wainwright) (Verve, 1999)
  • "Y2K" (Rykodisc, 1999)
  • "Nanny" (Evangeline 4090, 2005)
  • Promotional discs

  • "Bell Bottom Pants" (mono) / "Bell Bottom Pants" (stereo), 1973, Columbia, 45 rpm
  • "The Swimming Song" (stereo) / "The Swimming Song" (mono), 1973, Columbia, 45 rpm
  • "Bicentennial" (mono) / "Bicentennial" (stereo), 1976, Arista, 45 rpm
  • "This Year", 1988, Silvertone, 45 rpm (one-sided disc)
  • "Y2K" 6-track, radio edits of the song, Rykodisc
  • "History Promo #1" ("Talking New Bob Dylan", "Hitting You", "People in Love"), 1992, Virgin
  • "History Promo #2" ('The Doctor", "When I'm at Your House", "So Many Songs", "Men"), 1992, Virgin
  • "History Promo #3" ("People in Love"), 1992, Virgin
  • Career Moves promo ("Suddenly It's Christmas"), 1993, Virgin
  • Grown Man promo ("IWIWAL [I Wish I Was a Lesbian]", "Cobwebs", "Grown Man"), 1994, Virgin
  • Little Ship promo, ("Mr. Ambivalent"), Virgin, 1997
  • So Damn Happy promo 1 ("Something for Nothing"), 2003, Sanctuary
  • So Damn Happy promo 2 ("The Picture", "The Shit Song" [radio edit], "You Never Phone"), 2003, Sanctuary
  • "Daughter", from Strange Weirdos, 2007, Concord
  • Other Appearances

    Guest Appearances

  • The Earl Scruggs Revue, Anniversary Special, Volume One – "Swimming Song", "Gospel Ship" (cover) (1975, Columbia Records )
  • Nederlands Blazers Ensemble, Si Dolce (live) – "I Am the Way", "The Last Day" (unreleased), "Road Ode", "Five Years Old" (2000, VPRO Eigenwijs)
  • Various Artists: Live Appearances

  • Nyon Folk Festival 1979 – "The Waitress Song" (unreleased) (1979, Gat)
  • Feed the Folk – "Outsidey" (1985, Temple Records)
  • KGSR Broadcasts– "The Back Nine" (1993, KGSR)
  • KBCO Studio C, Volume 4 – "Cardboard Boxes" (1994, KBCO)
  • The Best of Mountain Stage Live, Volume 1 – "Bill of Goods" (1996, Blue Plate Music)
  • KGSR Broadcasts Vol. 4– "Cobwebs" (1996, KGSR)
  • The Best of the Cambridge Folk Festival – medley: "The Swimming Song"–"Pretty Little Martha"–"Dump the Dog" (1998, Strange Fruit Records)
  • KGSR Broadcasts Vol. 6– "Little Ship" (1998, KGSR)
  • Live at the World Cafe: Volume 9 – "Sunday Times" (1999, World Cafe)
  • Seka ["Sister"] Vol. 2 – "Pretty Good Day" (2000, Twah!)
  • KGSR Broadcasts Vol.10 – "No Sure Way" (2002, KGSR)
  • Fresh Air in Concert – "Your Mother and I" (2003, NPR)
  • KBCO Studio C, 20th Anniversary Edition – "White Winos" (2008, KBCO)
  • Various Artists: Studio Contributions

    All covers except as noted

  • The Slugger's Wife Soundtrack – "Hey, Hey, My My" (with Rebecca De Mornay) (1985, MCA Records)
  • From Hell to Obscurity (single B-sides) – "Colours", "At the End of a Long Lonely Day" (with John Hiatt), "My Girl" (with John Hiatt) (1989, Blackmail)
  • Signed Sealed Delivered Vol. 3 – "Virgin 21" (unreleased original) (1994, Virgin)
  • Beat the Retreat: Songs by Richard Thompson – "A Heart Needs a Home" (with Shawn Colvin) (1995, Capitol)
  • Bleecker Street: Greenwich Village in the 60’s – "Pack Up Your Sorrows" (with Iris DeMent) (1999, Astor Place)
  • Love Songs For New York: Wish You Were Here – "No Sure Way" (original) (2002, Megaforce)
  • The Aviator: Music from the Motion Picture – "After You've Gone" (2004, Columbia/Sony Music Soundtrax)
  • Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys – "Turkish Revelry", "Good Ship Venus" (2006, ANTI-)
  • Boardwalk Empire Volume 1: Music from the HBO Original Series – "Carrickfergus" (2011, Elektra/Asylum)
  • Boardwalk Empire Volume 2: Music from the HBO Original Series – "The Prisoner's Song" (2013, ABKCO)
  • Album Tracks on Compilations and Soundtracks

  • The New Age of Atlantic – "Motel Blues" (1972, Atlantic Records)
  • Dr. Demento Presents The Greatest Novelty Records of All Time: Volume 4: The 1970s – "Dead Skunk" (1985, Rhino)
  • Super Hits of the '70s: Have a Nice Day, Vol. 10 – "Dead Skunk" (1990, Rhino)
  • Hitchin' a Ride: 70's Greatest Rock Hits, Volume 10 – "Dead Skunk" (1991, Priority Records)
  • Life in the Folk Lane II – "Hard Day on the Planet" (1994, Diablo Records)
  • Troubadours of the Folk Era, Vol. 4: The '70s – "Old Friend" (1995, Rhino)
  • Golfs [sic] Greatest Hits – "Golfin' Blues" (1996, Teed Off Records, distributed by BMG)
  • Mellow Rock Hits of the '70s: Sundown – "Glad to See You've Got Religion" (1997, Rhino)
  • Soft Rock Classics – "Glad to See You've Got Religion" (1998, Rhino) (3-disk re-package including previous item)
  • Family Album – "The Picture" (1998, Gadfly)
  • Welcome to High Sierra – "Primrose Hill" (1998, Popmafia)
  • Unconditionally Guaranteed Volume 7 (August 1999): Uncut's Guide to the Month's Best Music – "Pretty Good Day" (1999, Uncut Magazine)
  • 28 Days: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack – "Heaven and Mud", "Drinking Song", "White Winos", "Dreaming" (2000, Uni/Varèse Sarabande)
  • Washington Square Memoirs: The Great Urban Folk Boom (1950–1970) – "School Days" (2001, Rhino)
  • Chart-Topping Crazy Hits – "Dead Skunk" (2004, Compass Productions / Warner Special products)
  • Golden Slumbers: A Father's Love – "Daughter" (2005, Rendezvous Records)
  • Roll With It: 16 Songs About Drinking, Dope, and Disorderly Conduct – "Drinking Song" (2008, Uncut Magazine)
  • Filmography

  • M*A*S*H (1975) (TV) .... Capt. Calvin Spalding, the singing surgeon
  • The T.V. Show (1979) (TV) .... Dead Man on Telethon/Spinal Tap Keyboardist
  • The Slugger's Wife (1985) .... Gary
  • Jacknife (1989) .... Ferretti
  • 28 Days (2000) .... Guitar guy
  • Undeclared (2001) (TV) .... Hal Karp
  • Big Fish (2003) .... Beamen
  • The Aviator (2004) .... Coconut Grove Vocalist No. 2
  • The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005) .... Priest
  • Elizabethtown (2005) .... Uncle Dale
  • For Your Consideration (2006) .... Nominee Ben Connelly
  • Knocked Up (2007) .... Dr. Everett Howard (also composed music)
  • G-Force (2009) .... Grandpa Goodman
  • Parks and Recreation (2009) (TV) .... Barry, a nutso community-forum attendee (Episode 1)
  • Person of Interest (TV series) (2012) (TV) .... Mr. Frey, father of Hanna - the woman who Reese thought was looking for the machine, but was found to be long dead.
  • Sleepwalk with Me (2012) .... Uncle Max
  • References

    Loudon Wainwright III Wikipedia