Beauty Mark

Album: Rufus Wainwright (1998)
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Songfacts®:

  • This song is about Rufus' mother, Kate McGarrigle, a talented singer-songwriter who died of cancer in 2010 at 63. According to Wainwright, they commonly wrote songs about each other, and "Beauty Mark" was in response to McGarrigle's "First Born," a song she wrote about Rufus that appeared on her 1977 album Dancer With Bruised Knees, a collaboration with her sister, Anna McGarrigle. Some lines that refer to her: "I never had your black hair, and hazel eyes," "I had no radio shows nor did I have homemade clothes, homemade curtains of the same material." The song ends very happily when Rufus decides "I may not be so manly, but still I know you love me, even if I don't have your beauty mark." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Chris - Philadelphia, PA
  • Kate McGarrigle really did have a beauty mark, a mole on her upper lip.
  • Wainwright started writing songs when he was 16. The first one he wrote was called "Liberty Cabbage" (what Americans called sauerkraut during World War I), and his mother loved it. Eager to please, he wrote more like it, but she rejected those. Stung by the criticism, he emptied his heart into "Beauty Mark" and came up with a winner. The song, which runs just 2:14, appeared on his 1998 self-titled debut album, released when he was 24. Rufus was signed to Dreamworks Records, which was run by the same two guys - Lenny Waronker and Mo Ostin - who called the shots at Warner Bros. Records when Kate and Anna McGarrigle were on the label in the '70s.
  • Rufus brings up the contrast with his mother's musical tastes when he sings:

    I think Callas sang a lovely "Norma"
    You prefer Robeson in "Deep River"


    Unlike most teenagers, Wainwright loved opera and was a huge fan of the soprano Maria Callas, who is known for her role in the opera "Norma." Paul Robeson was a deep-voiced singer known for "Ol' Man River."
  • The "I may not be so manly" line is a reference to Wainwright's homosexuality. He told his mother he was gay when he was 14, and like many of her generation, she struggled with it.

Comments: 2

  • Andy from New York, NyBeauty mark has two meaning. He did not get his mothers mark of beauty. He thinks he is not a georgeous hunk. His feelings of not being one of the beautiful people - of not being as attractive as the people he pursues-is a theme in his work.
  • Davis from Montreal, CanadaI like how up this is after a rather dark album (and artist generally)-- it's sorta the same feeling as Harvester of Hearts.
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