Rufus Wainwright born 22 July 1973
Singer and songwriter Rufus Wainwright has built a successful career with witty lyrics and rich melodies that have earned him comparisons to Cole Porter and George Gershwin. Wainwright cites Al Jolson, Edith Piaf, and Nina Simone as artists who were among his early inspirations.
Wainwright comes from a distinctly musical family. His father is American folk-singer and humorist Loudon Wainwright III, and his mother is Canadian folk-singer and songwriter Kate McGarrigle. Born in Rhinebeck, New York, Rufus Wainwright grew up in Montreal, where his mother made her home after his parents separated when he was three and subsequently divorced. His sister Martha is also a singer songwriter.
At the age of fourteen Wainwright discovered that he was gay and came out publicly. He has consistently been forthright about his sexual orientation.
His self-titled first album came out in 1998. His sophisticated tunes were compared to the work of Harry Nilsson and George Gershwin. Rolling Stone magazine named him the best new artist of the year. He also resisted suggestions by his record company bosses that he play down his sexuality, which, even today, is unusual.
Wainwright's second album, Poses (2001), showed him maturing as a musician and was well received by both critics and his fans. In the same year, he contributed songs to the films I Am Sam, Shrek and Moulin Rouge, which brought him to a wider audience.
While his career was flourishing, his personal life was troubled. He became addicted to alcohol and drugs, including methamphetamines. In addition, he was depressed. He took to meeting men over the internet and engaging in loveless affairs. To break this dangerous pattern, Wainwright went into rehab and therapy. Upon his recovery, he plunged back into his work, creating new material for the albums Want One ( 2003) and Want Two (2004), which have seen him break through internationally to a yet wider audience, although he has still to break through fully into the mainstream.
Wainwright is a singer with complete security of intonation, even over a dense accompaniment. In addition to being a pianist, he can also play the guitar, often switching between the two instruments when performing live. While some of his songs feature just Wainwright with his piano, many songs are accompanied by various instruments and backing vocals, some songs even by a symphony orchestra, displaying rather complex layering and harmonies with an operatic feel. Wainwright is an avid opera fan, and the influences on his music are evident, as well as his love of Franz Schubert's Lieder. Some of Wainwright's songs have been described as 'Popera' (Pop Opera) or 'Baroque Pop'.
In June 2006 Wainwright played a pair of sell-out shows at New York's Carnegie Hall where he recreated Judy Garland's entire 1961 performance with special guests. He recreated this performance at the London Palladium in 2007.
His album Release The Stars was released in May 2007. His first opera Prima Donna, a four-handed story of a day in the life an opera diva with a libretto in French, premiered at the Manchester International Festival in 2009 to mixed reviews. A sixth studio album was released in spring 2010.
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