Santa Cruz Good Times

Nov 27th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Fountain of Youth

music LoudonLoudon Wainwright III talks family, folk music, and the art of being funny

Aside from being a talented singer/songwriter, Loudon Wainwright III has become a household name for his sense of humor. From the road in the Northeast, where Wainwright is beginning a tour that runs through the fall, he confesses, “I’ve always liked making people laugh, if possible. I have friends that are comics and I certainly have watched a lot of stand up. When I perform, I have a guitar that acts as a fig-leaf and as a shield for protection—so I’m relaxed.”


With 22 albums under his belt, appearances on TV—including M.A.S.H and Judd Apatow’s underrated Undeclared—and a hilarious role as an irreverent gynecologist in Apatow’s big-screen hit, Knocked Up, Wainwright is now facing the inevitable task of aging with grace.

On his latest achievement, Older Than My Old Man Now, the silver-haired fox digs deep into his familial relationships, featuring duets with his kids, ex-wife, and special guest appearances from Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Dame Edna Everage. “I had other people on the record so people wouldn’t get completely bummed out by one voice,” says Wainwright. “That was the concept.”

Like the Kennedys, several generations of Wainwrights have mass appeal and are fascinating branches on the family tree. For one, Wainwright shares a grandchild with Leonard Cohen through his son Rufus. Rufus is the living definition of a cult singer/songwriter, Wainwright’s daughter Martha has gained a wide following for her work with everyone from Nelson Mandela to Hole, and his youngest daughter Lucy is tearing up Brooklyn’s folk scene.

Wainwright understands the benefits of working with his infamous relatives. “I’ve worked with my family before, certainly my kids—a lot of the songs have family aspects.” He is practical, but also knows talent when he hears it. “My kids are pretty good singers and have interesting, distinctive voices, so it seemed like a logical choice to bring in the progeny. It was also a good way to sell records.”

His ex-wife, Suzzy Roche—a former member of the successful all-girl, all-family band, The Roches—explains what its like to collaborate with Wainwright. “Loudon is great to work with because he knows what he likes, respects what other artists bring to the table, but is fiercely committed to staying true to his own vision,” says Roche. “You ask: Is he hilarious? The word I’d use is authentic.”

Although Wainwright’s songs have been compared to humorists Tom Lehrer and Stan Freberg, he insists that his songwriting process is not focused on writing wacky tunes, but on writing well-structured ones. “I don’t think quirky when I write a song—I think beginning, middle and end,” he says. Wainwright does not mnd the comparison, however, seeing as Lehrer is one of his heroes. “I really wanted Tom Lehrer to sing on this album, and if he’s reading this, please come to the show, you’re on the guest list.”

With more than 40 years of touring experience, Wainwright understands the importance of getting the audience to identify with the performer. “The trick is to get a group of people together in a room or a cow pasture, or wherever it is, and do a show for them,” he says. “Audiences are much the same after a while, and they’re either good or bad—they’re either laughing or they’re not. The trick, or the goal, is to turn them into a good audience, to the best of your ability.”

But humor took a backseat to substance on one of Wainwright’s most recent projects, a contribution to Occupy This Album, a compilation of songs performed by artists that were inspired by the Occupy movement. “The song that I contributed to the record is a song I didn’t write,” he says. “It was written by a great singer/songwriter, Hezekiah Jenkins, who wrote it for the first Depression. I was happy to make that kind of historical contribution—it’s a great song called, ‘The Panic is On.’”

The Occupy movement has gotten Wainwright thinking a lot lately about the state of the world, and his feeling of helplessness regarding the direction in which society is heading. “I don’t know what to do about damn near anything,” he admits. “But things are f*cked up, and it’s good to remind people—because it’s incredible how it’s possible to forget that.”  Photo: Ross Halfi

Loudon Wainwright III will play at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, June 29 at Kuumbwa Jazz, 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $25/adv, $25/door. For more information, call 427-2227.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger


Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share


Santa Cruz Gives

A look at the organizations we’re asking you to support in our new holiday giving campaign


Gratitude—For Each New Morning With its Light

The full moon of Wednesday brings light to Thanksgiving (Thursday) under the Sagittarius Sun and Mercury. Mercury in Sag offers humanity the message (Mercury) of thankfulness and joy (Jupiter). No other sign represents food, music and joy better than Sagittarius (only Pisces, when not in despair). Beginning on Thanksgiving, we can list what we’re grateful for. Then we can continue the list, creating a daily Gratitude Journal. What we are grateful for always increases in our lives. On Thanksgiving Saturn/Neptune square (challenging) is in full effect. This can manifest as traditions not being honored, disappearing, falling away. It can also create a sense of sadness, confusion, of things not working out as planned. It’s best to be as simple as possible. And to focus on gratitude instead. Gratitude is a service to others. It is scientifically and occultly a releasing agent. Releasing us from the past, allowing our future—the new culture and civilization, the new Aquarian laws and principles, the rising light of Aquarius, the Age of Friendship and Equality—to come forth. Gratitude and goodwill create the “thought-form of solution for humanity and the world’s problems.” The hierarchy lays great emphasis upon expressing gratitude. Gratitude illuminates all that is in darkness. Let us be grateful during this season together. Being, for others, the light that illuminates the darkness. A Poem by R.W. Emerson: We are grateful … “For each new morning with its light/For rest and shelter of the night/For health and food/For love and friends/For everything thy goodness sends.” (poem by R.W. Emerson). I am grateful for my family of readers.


The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program


Pluck of the Irish

Mid-century immigrant tale engagingly told in ‘Brooklyn’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments


Second Street Café

Pies and tarts for all tastes—from traditional to adventurous


How are you preparing for El Niño?

Getting ready to buy some rain gear. Cory Pickering, Santa Cruz, Teaching Assistant


Fortino Winery

Cabernet and superb fruit wine from Fortino Winery


Tap Dance

West End Tap & Kitchen’s impressive menu to expand to Eastside location