pain is the staff of life

David Kerr Remembered by Kate McGarrigle

Posted in Uncategorized by ruthanzo on July 11, 2007

July 11 2007

David Kerr died suddenly last week in Hong Kong where he’d lived happily for the last 20 years. He fell ill with what doctors thought might be a flu that was going around but the likely cause of death was septicemia.

-I met David a long time ago when I was still a student….he was the brother of a friend of a friend and he showed up in Montreal – very young, very skinny and shy, with a head full of curly hair and an armful of records, among them, The Incredible Stringband, the seminal British Folk Rock group. We became girlfriend and boyfriend in the freezing snowy winter of ’68 I think, and somewhere in the heart of the McGill ghetto he’d play his I. Stringband records, trying to impress me, but being the music snob that I was, I couldn’t figure out what he heard in this raggletaggled gypsy stuff…the irony of it all is that Joe Boyd, The I. Stringband’s producer at that time, went on to become the producer of Anna’s and my first two records, Kate and Anna McGarrigle and Dancer with Bruised Knees. I guess the gypsies worked some kind of magic on us. My romantic relationship with David didn’t last long, a month or so, and in the words of Bob Dylan, he went his way and I went mine….but we would connect thru the years at various social events as we had a lot of friends in common. On one occasion, a political fundraiser for “Gentleman Nick” Auf der Maur, David, who was more than a little in his cups, announced to my mother, “Mrs. McGarrigle, you don’t know what a catch I was” before falling to the floor. We all had a good laugh. In the mid 80’s he was going thru a bit of a rough patch and I, having just returned from Hong Kong where my sister and I had performed at the Arts Festival, suggested that he visit the place – “get as far away as you can from this town (Montreal) – go to Hong Kong where all things are possible”. Turns out he took my advice and several months later I get a postcard from him where he mentions that he had done something he had never done before in his life: he got a job! Working for the South China Post. A few years later, he told me his lease was up on June 30th, 1997, but was about to sign a new one…he liked it there.
He would come back to Montreal from time to time and we’d sit on my balcony sharing a bottle of wine, take in a concert, then gather with other friends at Elsa’s to bid him godspeed as he sat there with his bag packed, waiting for the midnight bus to Toronto to catch a discount return flight to Hong Kong…his shoes were always shined, his shirt well-pressed and he reminded me of a character in a Somerset Maugham novel, or maybe even a Humphrey Bogart movie, I would imagine him lounging in some ferry boat bar, on his way to Macau, say, smoking a cigaret and sipping a whiskey…reading a newspaper….
Lately I’ve been thinking about all the friends I have all over the world and that I must go and hang with them one last time, one at a time. Now David is no longer on that list. I see him on a ferry going somewhere new, somewhere very far, his shoes are shined, his shirt is pressed. Godspeed you David.-
Kate McGarrigle


joelz writes:
july 11 2007
I’m sorry to hear this news and am touched by this illumination

campbie writes:
july 11 2007
I echo the fiddler’s comments.

spruce top p. writes:
july 11 2007
ii rrremember ddavid ffrrom the swiss hutt on ssherbrooke nnear
durocher. hhe was a sweet guy who lliked to write. aat the ttime ii couldn’t
understand why hhe made the move from toronto to montreal wwhen
everybbody elsa was ddoing the opposite, iff you were an aanglo which he was,
although hhis mom was a honky and i tthink that’s were he ggot his
subttle drry humour. now i uunderstand. mmontreal was llaide back then in
ccomparison to toronto wwith itt’s tiny pperfect mayor, a towwn where
evverybody hhad to kknow wwhat you wwere doing before they’d speeak to
you. ii kin ggive you 30 seconds. iin mmontreal you ccould llive in
the bbrown and yellow tudor asylum on haywwarden where there wass
neitherr hay nnor warden aand nobody ggave a fuck. uunfortunately.
lluckily ddavid ggot some ggod advice.

r.i.p. old ffriend.

spruce ttop p.
l’asile de cornwall


2 Responses

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  1. Inga-Stina Westman said, on January 11, 2008 at 9:48 pm

    Is this the blog of Kate McGarrigle? She is my IDOL. Will she reply to this?

    Hi Kate (if you are listening now)- I have played your songs about a 100 times! But – now I am able to SEE you. For the first time! On YouTube! Whenever I feel blue I just have to put on “Hard times come again no more” to feel better. You look like a priest, and the whole FEELING of this song is holy! (I had never heard it before. Thought it was a hymn.)

    How did the operation go? Are you well?

    And I am about to start translating “Les Bouches inutiles” by Simone de Beauvoir into Swedish! (her only play. Written in 1945.) I suppose it will result in a Swedish first performance!

    Comme j´aime que tu existe! (line from the play.)

    -Comment s´aime-t-on sur la terre?
    -On lutte ensemble!

    At the moment I feel like a bouche inutile myself…

    Greetings from

    I haven´t put out myself on YouTube (yet). But look at my little pupil in Saigon. Linhdan, 5 years old! Start with “Funny Jingle Bells”. (Santa Clown.)

  2. Inga-Stina Westman said, on January 12, 2008 at 5:52 am

    Aha! I see! This is the blogspot of Anna, Kate´s sister! Right? (I´ve read it all through. The things I understood. I am from Sweden you know. Not so bright in ze head.)

    Have you eaten any swedes lately? (haha. Hope not.)(it´s good. Yummy yummy.)(some call them rutabagas. This is actually a Swedish dialect word!)

    Swedish born
    and Swedish bread
    strong in the arm
    and dull in the head
    who can ever kill a Swede?
    his skull is very thick indeed
    but once you get an idea in
    you´ll never get it out again!
    (text by W.H. Auden. Song from
    Benjamin Britten´s “American” musical
    Paul Bunyan.)

    Well that is a Swedish MAN. Swedish WOMEN are very flexible! (but strong. A bit like Maria von Trapp.)

    Haha. Have you seen Inga-Britt Ahlenius? There´s a Swedish woman for you! Digging up dirt in the UN basement!

    Anyway – I love you too Anna! The incomparabale sisters!

    Greetings from
    La Bouche qui rit

    Il pleure dans mon coeur
    (comme il pleut sur la ville)

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