• Catalog Spotlight: Loudon on Loudon
    Catalog Spotlight: Loudon on Loudon

Born in Chapel Hill, NC, in 1946, Loudon Wainwright III came to fame when "Dead Skunk" became a Top 20 hit in 1972. He studied acting at Carnegie Mellon University but dropped out to partake in the Summer of Love in San Francisco where he wrote his first song in 1968. He was soon signed to Atlantic Records by Nesuhi Ertegun and was eventually lured by Clive Davis to Columbia Records, which released "Dead Skunk." His songs have since been recorded by Bonnie Raitt, Johnny Cash, Earl Scruggs, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, his son Rufus Wainwright, and Mose Allison, among others.

Wainwright has co-written with Joe Henry on the music for Judd Apatow's hit movie, 'Knocked Up,' written music for the British theatrical adaptation of the Carl Hiassen novel, 'Lucky You,' and composed songs for NPR's 'Morning Edition' and 'All Things Considered' and ABC's 'Nightline.' An accomplished actor, he has appeared in films directed by Martin Scorsese, Hal Ashby, Christopher Guest, Tim Burton, Cameron Crowe, Judd Apatow, and Steven Soderbergh. He has starred on TV in 'M.A.S.H.' and 'Undeclared' and on Broadway in 'Pump Boys' and 'Dinettes.' Most recently, he appeared in Soderbergh's film, 'Mosaic,' and has been performing a one-man theatrical show, 'Surviving Twin,' which combines his songs and the writings of his late father.

  1. Loudon Wainwright III - "Sweet Nothings"
    • ​​"Recently I wrote some new lyrics to this song: 'And did I mention I want your attention/So stop with the texting -- it's rude and it's vexing/Just whisper sweet nothings in my ear.'"
  2. Loudon Wainwright III - "Grey In L.A."
    • ​​"Location, location, location."
  3. Loudon Wainwright III - "The Swimming Song"
    • ​​​​​​"One of the few songs I've written on the 5-string banjo but easily the most covered of all my songs. The list includes Earl Scruggs (twice), Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Lucy Kaplanski, Mary Macaslin, Jimmy Fallon, and Bon Iver."
  4. Loudon Wainwright III - "In C"​​
    • ​​"This song started out as a joke about being a lousy piano player and then transmuted into something quite serious about how family dynamics are passed down through generations."
  5. Loudon Wainwright III - "The Grammy Song"
    • ​​"Written in 1982, before my nominations (3) and my big win in 2010. I told my sister, Sloan, in 1970 that one day I would win a Grammy. It only took 40 years to happen."
  6. Loudon Wainwright III - "Crime Of Passion"
    • ​​"The joys and terrors of sex!"
  7. ​Loudon Wainwright III - "Cardboard Boxes"
    • ​​"I'm always looking to write about something that's universal and moving house fits that bill. I'm also a great believer in the power of the mundane."
  8. ​Loudon Wainwright III - "I Knew Your Mother"
    • ​​"Kids, especially once they've grown up, tend to forget that their parents had lives together, lives that preceded theirs."
  9. ​Loudon Wainwright III - "Down Drinking At The Bar"
    • ​​"The bar in question? The Harvard Gardens in Cambridge, MA. The time? 1972. The giveaway? The lines: 'I'm sick and tired of listening to that phone ring 15 times/I'm sick and tired of getting back my dimes.'"
  10. ​Loudon Wainwright III - "Animal Song"
    • ​​"I wrote this around 1985 when I had 3 young kids to entertain. You know a song works if kids like it."
  11. ​Loudon Wainwright III - "Number One"
    • ​​"I suppose phone sex had been rendered practically archaic in this age of internet porn and texting. Oh how I yearn for yesteryear."
  12. ​Rufus Wainwright - "One Man Guy (Loudon Wainwright III Cover)"
    • ​​"My son, Rufus, did a great version of this song on his second album, 'Poses.' That was even better than hearing Johnny Cash's cover of my song, 'The Man Who Couldn't Cry.'"
  13. ​Loudon Wainwright III - "Old Friend"
    • ​​"The guy I had in mind when I wrote this song was a boyhood pal who always was bugging me about the above mentioned yesteryear...About 20 years ago, he got in touch with me again, asking about legal help. He was incarcerated in a maximum security prison in Colorado for 2nd degree murder."
  14. ​Loudon Wainwright III - "Dreaming"
    • ​​"Often you hear someone say something or other and it can be the starting point for a song. My mother once remarked to me at a particularly low point in her life, 'I'd rather be dreaming.' That stayed with me and then I ran with it."
  15. ​Loudon Wainwright III - "A Father And A Son"
    • ​​"My dad died in 1988 and I've been writing about him, it, and us for over 25 years now."
  16. ​Loudon Wainwright III - "The Acid Song"​​
    • "I need extra money to perform this one. It takes precious minutes off my life."
  17. ​Loudon Wainwright III - "Over The Hill"
    • ​​"The one and only song I wrote with my first wife, Kate McGarrigle. Ironically, we were both about 28 at the time."
  18. ​Loudon Wainwright III - "Lullaby"
    • ​​"People have thought that this is a song written to sing to a baby. When the lyrics were printed on the back of the album it appeared on, I inserted a false and misleading clue in the couplet -- 'The excuse that you're crazy is useless/You're not biting you're barking you're toothless/But you're Rufus' -- but I'm not singing 'But you're Rufus,' I'm singing 'But you're ruthless.' The person being sung to is not my kid, but rather myself."
  19. Johnny Cash - "The Man Who Couldn't Cry (Loudon Wainwright III Cover)"
    • ​​"I still treasure the handwritten note Johnny Cash wrote me after he recorded 'The Man Who Couldn't Cry' for his first 'American Recordings' album. I especially love that it was written on House of Cash stationery."
  20. ​Loudon Wainwright III - "Pretty Good Day"
    • ​​"I was living in London in 1994. One afternoon, I was washing dishes and listening to the BBC radio news reports about the Siege of Sarajevo. While engaged in that mundane, everyday activity, I suddenly became aware of wasting gallons of a commodity that was extremely precious in Bosnia: water."


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