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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 145
Sat. June 2, 2012

“California”
Rufus Wainwright
2001

“♫ California/ you’re such
a wonder that I think I’ll stay
in bed/ so much to plunder
that I think I’ll sleep
instead
[…] ♫”

I remember the night; it was the first day after I was held up by my apartment in the Garden District. I was still freaked out from the crime. But I couldn’t stay home; I promised a good friend of mine that I would take her to the Tori Amos show at the Orpheum Theater. That night in New Orleans, was the first time I discovered the artist better known as Rufus Wainwright.

Rufus was the opening act for Tori Amos. And you know how opening acts can be—usually, it’s just forty-five minutes warm up until the main act comes to the stage. On this night, Rufus was different. Wainwright came out in flip-flops, jeans and loose dark blue shirt. He came out holding only an acoustic guitar. I remember he was so charming, and nervous; I felt like Rufus was slowly, getting to know us from the stage. His banter was touching, sweet and hilarious.

Rufus then told the story about when he first came went out west to California; Because he was homesick, as a struggling artist, Wainwright would stay home and watch episodes of the Golden Girls. You see, he Girls would always cheer him up especially his favorite Golden siren—The late great Bea Arthur; Because of this, he dubbed Arthur his “Television Grandma.”

Jump to a few years later, Rufus is doing an AIDS benefit and guess who’s at this event… Bea Arthur! So Rufus summons up the courage to tell Arthur about his story, especially emphasizing that she was her “Television grandma.” Before walking away, because she didn’t know who Wainwright was at the time, Bea’s classic response was—“I’m not your fucking Grandmother!”

Rufus story about his song “California” was so hilarious took me away from the post traumatic fear of my mugging— and for this I was so thankful, I became a fan of Rufus and even went out and bought his Poses LP.

For those Wainwright virgins, describing the sound of Rufus I would say he’s the “love-child” of David Bowie and Judy Garland. What I respect about Rufus was one of the first modern LBGT artists to be signed to a major label but Wainwright says. “I don’t know if I’m a pioneer…I’m definitely a soldier in the little army of people who are fighting for [liberation] but I’m not the only one.” It’s the same thing I admire about Antony from The Johnsons—these two don’t allow their sexuality to define their art. Rufus, and Antony, defy the old Derek Jarman quote,—“No one could be Queer and celebrated.” Rufus is brave. Rufus is a vintage— singer/songwriter. Wainwright is a student of music, who’s not just only a master on stage but also for his craft. There’s style behind his substance, Wainwright doesn’t just sing in the style of electronic, folk, cabaret or opera just for show. It’s an outlet for his incredible one of a kind voice of liberation.

In this age of bullying, bashing and all-out war on LBGT brothers and sisters, we need Gay Iconic warriors like Rufus Wainwright. Why? Because Rufus is brave, true to himself and he fearlessly believes in his art, working on his craft while thriving as a true artist. How does Rufus do it? He doesn’t try to be anyone else? He’s not Loudon or Kate’s son, or Martha’s sister—he’s 100% original, there’s no one like Rufus.

Rufus like me is against the Pop Idolatry of American celebrity— Wainwright believes—“What I think needs to be imbued into young people is that no, it’s not going to be handed to you on a silver platter. You’re going to have to fight for it, and in the end it’ll make you a stronger and more interesting person.”

What I learned most from Rufus, is to love and believe myself, be dedicated to my craft, persevere and move to California. Done and Done. Thank You, Rufus for being the strange, wonderful person you are today.

Uncle Walt Whitman must have been describing Rufus Wainwright when he was quoted at the beginning of Kirk Lake’s most excellent biography on Wainwright—There Will Be Rainbows, said it best, “ I will effuse egotism and show it under-lying all, and I will be the bard of personality.” He may be equal parts Bob Dylan, Elton John, David Bowie and Judy Garland but there can only be one Rufus—he is the ultimate iconic renaissance artist, American music has been waiting for. Get ready to be captivated with the sound of one and only Rufus Wainwright.

P.S. “California” is from 2001’s Poses LP.

Rufus does have a brand new Mark Ronson produced album, Out of The Game, available now at a record store near you.

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