Santa Cruz Good Times

Tuesday
Sep 23rd
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

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Catwalk on the Wild Side

Meet the artists and designers behind this year’s edition of FashionART, SantaCruz’s most outrageous fashion show

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Watch List

From Google to the government to data brokers, why your privacy is now a thing of the past

 

The Peace Equation

Sunday is the United Nations’ International Day of Peace, a global peace-building day when nations, leaders, governments, communities and individuals are invited to end conflict, cease hostilities, creat 24 hours of non-violence and promote goodwill. Monday is Autumn equinox as the Sun enters Libra (right relations with all of life). The Soul Year now begins. We work in the dark part of the year (Persephone underground) preparing for the new light of winter solstice. Tuesday to Wednesday is the Virgo new moon festival. We know two things about peace. “The absence of war does not signify peace.” And “Peace is an ongoing process.” In its peace-building emphasis, the UNIDP, through education, attempts to create a “culture of peace, understanding and tolerance”. Esoterically we are reminded of the peace equation: “Intentions for goodwill (and acting upon this intention) create right relations with all earth’s kingdoms which create (the ongoing process of) peace on earth.” At noon on Sunday, in all time zones, millions of participating groups will observe a moment of silence for peace on earth. Bells will ring, candles will be lit, and doves released as the New Group of World Servers recite the Great Invocation (humanity’s mantram of direction). To connect with others around the world see www.cultureofpeace.org    Let us join together with the mother (Virgo). Goodwill to all, let peace prevail on earth. The dove is the symbol for the day.
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Sweet Treats

Local cannabis bakers win award for cookies

 

What fashion trends do you want to see, or not see?

Santa Cruz  |  High School Guidance Counselor

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Santa Clara Wine Trail

My memories of growing up in England include my mother pouring port after Sunday dinner—and sometimes a glass of sherry before dinner. My family didn’t drink much wine back then, but we certainly made up for it with the port and sherry.