Canadian folk singer Kate McGarrigle — the mother of [artist id="502644"]Rufus[/artist] and Martha Wainwright and, along with her sister Anna, a celebrated performer in her own right — died Monday night after a lengthy battle with cancer. She was 63.
McGarrigle was born in Montreal and began performing folk and roots music in the 1960s with the Mountain City Four, a group that also included Anna. The two began recording as a duo and made their debut with a self-titled 1975 album. Their musical partnership continued into the 2000s, and the sisters released 10 studio albums, recorded both in French and English. Their songs have been covered by the likes of Linda Ronstadt, Elvis Costello and Emmylou Harris. In 1993, they were awarded the Order of Canada, the nation's highest civilian honor.
Kate married American folk musician Loudon Wainwright III, and they had two children — son Rufus in 1973 and daughter Martha in 1976 — both of whom followed in their parents' footsteps. Though McGarrigle and Wainwright eventually divorced, they remained close friends and, joined by their children, recorded together on the McGarrigle Sisters' 1998 album The McGarrigle Hour.
According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, McGarrigle battled "a rare form of cancer" (some reports listed it as clear-cell carcinoma), and rumors of her worsening condition began to surface over the weekend, when Rufus abruptly canceled his tour of Australia and New Zealand due to "an illness in the family."
Kate was widely held to be a Canadian musical icon, and the news of her death was greeted with sadness by her colleagues. On his Twitter page, CBC Radio host and music critic Jian Ghomeshi wrote, "RIP Kate McGarrigle. One of our greats. And matriarch of the Wainwright magic. Your music will live on."