Out of These Shadows Comes the Light
September 25, 2008, 5:04 am
Filed under: Rufus Wainwright, Uncategorized | Tags: ,

If you’ve been checking in here for these last several days, you might correctly surmise that by mid-2002 I was pretty excited to see what Rufus would do next.  More shows, another album, all of the above.  It had been so very long since I had felt that kind of urgency about a performer, and Rufus was so young, so talented, so obviously in love with what he did, that there was obviously a lot more to come.  Having just discovered him I would have preferred that it be sooner than later, but months passed with no new output and no shows within traveling distance.  This gave me a lot of time to become more than intimate with Poses and the debut, but I wanted more.

I’m not clear on the chronology because I wasn’t taking notes, but I remember something about Rufus canceling a show or two around the end of 2002.  The announcement on his Web site said he was ill, perhaps with a bronchial infection or something of that nature.  Folks were concerned because it seemed so unusual for him to cancel gigs, but the assumption was that there was no reason to worry.

After months of no activity, he finally surfaced on the David Letterman Show, where he performed “My Funny Valentine” on February 14, with Kate on piano:

Now I can watch this performance and enjoy it, but at the time I found it unsettling without exactly being able to say why.  He looked not just pale, but drawn, and somehow darker in spirit.  I couldn’t understand the beard, which didn’t seem like him at all.  He was just . . . different.  I was concerned, but as 2003 went on, we heard more and more exciting news about recording sessions for the “Want” project, which was initially meant to be released as a double album.  It seemed to take forever for it to come out, forever in this case being until September.

Delayed gratification can make something all the sweeter when it arrives, and in this case there was plenty of it.  Fourteen songs, a lush, melodic, intense collection of songs that I could enter and get lost in.  It was an environment, not an album, and it fulfilled every bit of promise and anticipation, reaffirming my commitment to Rufus as an artist.  It feels a bit odd to say that, but I felt (and still do) that his music had a meaning and value to me that was incomparable to anything else I had ever known.

Along with the album came lots of publicity, most notably the infamous Gay Hell interview in the New York Times.  After all these months, I finally understood what I had seen in February, but I also understood that Rufus had prevailed.  More than enough has been said about the crystal meth addiction, so I won’t belabor it except to say that I felt very proud of him for speaking out about it and extremely hopeful about his future.  I knew from my own experiences (with more to come, oh yes), that he had been forced to discover just how strong and resilient he was, just how much support he had, and that even the darkest experiences could be transformed into transformative art if you just had the right stuff.

2 Comments so far
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You’re a credit to his fan base because you write with so much sincerity and respect, expressing heartfelt feelings that many of Rufus’ fans can relate to. Thanks for that!
I love him too, from the bottom of my heart 🙂

Comment by Sybilla

I had never been able to get hold of the ‘gay hell’ interview (OK, maybe I could have, if I’d tried a little harder… must have been a psychological ‘block’), so thanks for providing the link here.

It’s a hard read, but worth it, if only to be stunned by his courage (and naivety, considering the effect this interview may have had on his record sales), saddened by the depths of his despair, angered by the reasons as to how he came to be so low, and proud of just how far he has come since those terrible days.

I suspect he is forever damaged; that he will always be recovering. But as Leonard Cohen wrote, ‘There is a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in’.

Thanks so much for your blog. I have really been enjoying your daily posts. 🙂

Comment by Melampus

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