Liner Notes: On Parents & Children, Exes & Excess, Death & Decay, & a Few of My Other Favorite Things (Hardcover)
Maybe all memoir-writing musicians who survived the '60s eventually find the wisdom and perspective that comes with age. Even the recent memoirs by hard-living hard-rockers like Keith Richards, Chrissie Hynde and Billy Kreutzmann depict them as mellow in their old age. Loudon Wainwright III is no exception, but his Liner Notes refreshingly focuses on the writer side of his singer-songwriter persona and career. Wainwright chooses excerpts from his autobiographical songs, old family photos, newspaper clippings and even examples of his celebrated father's Lifemagazine columns. As a result, his memoir is the self-effacing chronicle of a privileged kid with a taste for drugs, booze, women and the stage--a man who seldom tried to be anything more or less than he was.
Although Wainwright was heralded by critics after his first album in 1970 as "the new Bob Dylan," the public was not equally impressed. His early records were commercial failures until the unlikely novelty tune "Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road" hit the top 20 on 1973's Billboard Top 100. He accepts this somewhat embarrassing fame--resigned that "the skunk thing, I fear, will be the lead item in my obit... [but] better a song about roadkill than one about getting high on a mountain in Colorado."
Wainwright may be a melancholic guy ("I've had the blues for about sixty years now"), but Liner Notes is mostly lighthearted musings at the ups and downs of his life in music (26 albums so far), TV (Mash, SNL) and movies (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up). It is the story of a raconteur with a knack for taking it all in and putting it back into song--or into this dandy self-portrait of a life well lived.— Bruce Jacobs
Loudon Wainwright III, the son of esteemed Life magazine columnist Loudon Wainwright, Jr., is the patriarch of one of America's great musical families. He is the former husband of Kate McGarrigle and Suzzy Roche, and father of Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright, Lucy Wainwright Roche, and Lexie Kelly Wainwright. With a career spanning more than four decades, Wainwright has established himself as one of the most enduring singer-songwriters who emerged from the late 1960s. Not only does he perform regularly across America and in Europe, but he is a sought-after actor, having appeared in many movies and TV series. There is probably no singer-songwriter who has so blatantly inserted himself into his songs. The songs can be laugh-out-loud funny, but they also can cut to the bone. In this memoir, Wainwright details the family history his lyrics have referenced and the fractured relationships among generations: the alcoholism, the infidelities, the competitiveness--as well as the closeness, the successes, and the joy. Wainwright reflects on the experiences that have influenced his work, including boarding school, the music business, swimming, macrobiotics, sex, incarceration, and something he calls Sir Walter Raleigh Syndrome. Wainwright writes poignantly about being a son--a status that dominates many of his songs--but also about being a parent, a brother, and a grandfather. His lyrics are featured throughout the book, amplifying his prose and showing the connections between the songs and real life. Wainwright also includes selections from his father's brilliant Life magazine columns--and, in so doing, reestablishes his father as a major essayist of his era. A funny and insightful meditation on family, inspiration, and art, Liner Notes will thrill fans, readers, and anyone who appreciates the intersection of music and life.
About the Author
Loudon Wainwright III is a singer-songwriter and actor. In 1968 he began to write songs, and in 1969 recorded his first album. Wainwright has recorded twenty-seven albums, including his 2010 Grammy Award-winning High, Wide, & Handsome. His songs have been covered by Johnny Cash, Mose Allison, Rufus Wainwright, Bonnie Raitt, and Earl Scruggs, among others. As an actor he has appeared on TV (M*A*S*H, Ally McBeal, Undeclared), in movies (Big Fish, The Aviator, Knocked Up), on Broadway (Pump Boys and Dinettes) and Off (Hot Lunch Apostles, Surviving Twin). "Mr. Wainwright wrings more human truth out of his contradiction than any other songwriter of his generation." --The New York Times, Stephen Holden