Come Home to Mama — Martha Wainwright’s heartfelt version of her mother’s final song, “Proserpina,” a stunning masterpiece

Even with expectations consistently set sky-high, Martha Wainwright always manages to exceed even those. But the beautiful “Proserpina,” the centerpiece of her latest album Come Home to Mama, shatters everything which comes before, an evocative piano and vocal tribute to her mother Kate McGarrigle, who died two years ago. This was the final song McGarrigle wrote, performing it during her final Christmas concert six weeks before her death:

It’s a story of Persephone, or Proserpina, as I’ve chosen to do it, and this is a song about her. Proserpina causes winter. I’m not going to explain it, you can look it up later. She runs away with Pluto and goes to the dark world, and her mother gets very angry, because she doesn’t come back. Her mother is the goddess of good stuff, like food. So they make a deal that her mother gets her six months of the year, and her husband, who lives underground, gets her the other six.

I’m just now digging into the rest of the album, but every time I replay “Proserpina” I melt, That I’m hearing it a week before Christmas, during that “dark dark dark” time of the year, as McGarrigle describes it, seems appropriate. I can feel Hera’s pain as portrayed through Wainwright’s vocals, these words echoing in such stark, vivid tones. The words of her mother, with whom she no longer can make such beautiful music. But the tribute lasts beyond a lifetime. This defines the concept of meaningful music in my book, an absolutely essential listen.

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2 thoughts on “Come Home to Mama — Martha Wainwright’s heartfelt version of her mother’s final song, “Proserpina,” a stunning masterpiece

  1. You’re right, this is a really beautiful rendition. I love Martha and Rufus Wainright. In fact I saw him live in concert in Glasgow last Friday which was just a dream come true. I’m trying to get tickets for Martha’s show in January. Fingers crossed. Such a talented family. Martha sings with such pain in her voice and expression. God, she’s wonderful as is her brother. And what a band he has to accompany him. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt such a sense of awe during a live concert.

    • Fingers crossed indeed ;) I took my father to a Rufus show in ’05, and he became a huge fan overnight. Definitely worth seeing any of them live. Next on my “must see” list is Loudon Wainwright III ;)

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