by Carolyn Berger, LCSW
On August 23rd Rufus Wainwright will be marrying his partner of five years, Jorn Weisbrodt, out in Montauk, Long Island.
I’ve always liked Rufus Wainwright’s music, but only became interested in his family building story after I saw him in concert in July.
The show opened with Adam Cohen, son of the legendary Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, and a wonderful singer in his own right. Later, when Rufus came onstage he introduced Adam to the audience as his brother-in-law.
I was confused. I thought Rufus was gay and single. Where exactly did this brother-in-law fit in?
My confusion dissipated when Rufus mentioned that he would be marrying his partner, Jorn, soon. But I was quickly in a quandary again when Rufus sang the song “Montauk,” which he dedicated to his baby daughter, Viva.
I looked up the lyrics later on. My favorite phrases: “Someday you will come to Montauk/ And see your dad wearing a kimono/ And see your other dad pruning roses/ Hope you won’t turn around and go.” Obviously, I hadn’t been keeping up on Rufus’s recent life—not having known he was getting married nor that he had a little girl who had two dads.
Meanwhile, Rufus sang brilliantly. Many of his songs were from his new album, “Out of the Game.” The audience got him to sing three or four encores before the concert ended.
Back home that night I had some serious catching up to do. I turned to Google and caught up on Rufus’s life as best I could. What I learned about then, and later through an interview Rufus just did on CBS’s “Sunday Morning,” can only be described as a beautiful family building journey.
Rufus had a child, Viva Katherine Wainwright Cohen, with his close friend Lorca Cohen, who is the daughter of Leonard Cohen and the sister of the aforementioned Adam Cohen.
Viva , who is about a year and a half, is the daughter of three royal families of Canadian/American music: The Wainwrights, the McGarrigles, and the Cohens. Loudon Wainwright III is Rufus’s father. His mother, who was singer Kate McGarrigle, died of cancer a couple of years ago. Lorca Cohen’s father, Leonard Cohen, is almost eighty, and still fills the largest concert halls everywhere.
While Viva is the daughter of three musical families, she is also the child of three parents. Lorca Cohen has been referred to as “the surrogate,” but this is inaccurate. She is the baby’s mother in every way. In fact, Viva spends most of her time with Lorca. On Viva’s birth announcement (February 2, 2011), the proud parents listed were “Lorca Cohen, Rufus Wainwright and “Deputy Dad” Jorn Weisbrodt. Each of these parents will play a significant role in Viva’s life.
Rufus Wainwright and Jorn Weisbrodt’s upcoming marriage is a statement of their commitment, but says Rufus, it is also to “solidify this structure around Viva. It is happening now so that “ this family unit we’ve created is official and legal.”
When considering Rufus Wainwright’s family configuration, I’m left with the idea that we build our families around the people we love, and because we love them we protect them legally. That goes for singer/songwriters as well as for more ordinary mortals. That goes for straights and that goes for gays.
I wish I could be a fly on the wall at Rufus’s wedding this week, but look forward to hearing more about his new family in song. Maybe when I go to Leonard Cohen’s concert at Madison Square Garden in December, I will get an update. My guess is that Cohen is as besotted as a grandfather could possibly be. And he may have written a song about it….
Carolyn Berger, LCSW is Founding Board Chair of The American Fertility Association. She has a private practice in Manhattan and Westchester, specializing in Fertility, All Forms of Family Building and Adoption.