Rufus Wainwright: Music Won't Save You

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Rufus Wainwright
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Rufus Wainwright comes from a musical dynasty — the son of folk singers Kate McGarrigle and Loudon Wainwright. His sister, aunts, uncles, and cousins are in the music business, too. Despite his folk upbringing, the strongest influence on his music comes from opera. He first heard Verdi’s Requiem at age 13. “It was an instantaneous transformative experience,” Wainwright tells Kurt Andersen. Currently, Wainwright is at work writing his second opera, about the Roman emperor Hadrian, who faced persecution for loving another man and made political decisions that still resonate today. “Hadrian created Palestine,” Wainwright tells Kurt. “A lot of those borders that he initially drew we still fight over today.”

Wainwright’s newest album, his seventh, is Vibrate: The Best of Rufus Wainwright. Now 41, he has been around long enough to learn some lessons about life in the music business. “Artistry and poetry will not save your life if your life needs to be saved,” Wainwright tells Kurt. “There’s a point when you have to get off the trolley ride and go see a therapist and take care of yourself.”

Wainwright, who documented his struggles with addiction in song, takes much better care of himself these days. He married Jorn Weisbrodt in 2012 and the pair had a daughter with Lorca Cohen, daughter of the legendary singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen. “My daughter’s three now and she’s at that age where you’re going to get a kiss sometimes and sometimes you’re not going to get a kiss,” he says. “But when she does shine her light on you and says, ‘Daddy, I love you,’ there’s a nuclear reaction.”

Music Playlist

  1. Dinner At Eight

    Artist: Rufus Wainwright
    Album: Want One
    Label: DreamWorks SKG
  2. Going to a Town

    Artist: Rufus Wainwright
  3. The Art Teacher

    Artist: Rufus Wainwright