Mary Margaret O’Hara Biography
Mary Margaret O’Hara is a Canadian singer-songwriter and actress. She is best known for the album Miss America, released in 1988. She released two albums and an EP under her own name, and remains active as a live performer, as a contributor to compilation albums and as a guest collaborator on other artists’ albums.
O’Hara was born in Toronto, Ontario to a large family of Irish Catholic descent. She is the sister of comedic actress Catherine O’Hara. Her early musical tastes included Van Morrison, Dinah Washington, and her father’s jazz records.
Mary Margaret O’Hara Albums
- Miss America (1988)
- Apartment Hunting (2001)
Mary Margaret O’Hara Movies
|1977||SCTV||Prisoner||Television series (appeared in one episode)|
|1985||The Last Polka||Lemon twin||Shmenge Brothers movie, starring John Candy, Eugene Levy and sister Catherine|
|1991||The Events Leading Up to My Death||Rita|
|2003||Squeezebox||Vivienne||short film by Andrew Hull|
|2004||Youkali Hotel||Television series|
|2005||Mr Happy||Mother||Released in 2005 and 2006|
|Black Widow||Elizabeth Peyton|
|2012||Museum Hours||Anne||film by Jem Cohen|
|2016||The Rising||Mary MacDiarmada||film by Kevin McCann|
Mary Margaret O’Hara Songs
- “To Cry About” – 3:23
- “Year in Song” – 3:34
- “Body’s in Trouble” – 4:58
- “Dear Darling” – 3:51
- “Anew Day” – 3:11
- “When You Know Why You’re Happy” – 4:34
- “My Friends Have” – 3:10
- “Help Me Lift You Up” – 4:35
- “Keeping You in Mind” – 4:39
- “Not Be Alright” – 5:13
- “You Will Be Loved Again” – 3:36
- “Was You” 2:04
- “Never Came Back Again” 4:53″Rain” 2:59
- “Dream I Had (I)” 3:44
- “Ay!” 3:25
- “Be a Man (Fallin’)” 3:13
- “Scary Latin Love Song” 1:45
- “If You See My Love (I)” 1:56
- “I Don’t Care” 4:26
- “Woo-Hoo” 1:10
- “Have You Gone” 6:30
- Apartment of Cheese Suite” 4:12
- “Love Will Take Its Time” 3:38
- “If You See My Love (II)” 1:54
- “Chez le Nez Suite” 8:19
- “Dream I Had (II)” O’Hara 2:18
- “Hello Yellow Goose (Burning Dog)” 1:07
Mary Margaret O’Hara Career
Her early musical tastes included Van Morrison, Dinah Washington, and her father’s jazz records. She was a student at the Ontario College of Art and Design in the 1970s and was involved in the music scene as a member of Toronto bands Dollars, Songship and Go Deo Chorus.
In 1983, O’Hara left Go Deo and was signed by Virgin Records. Andy Partridge of XTC was scheduled as her producer but was fired after his first day due to his reported difficulties with O’Hara’s musical approach. Her contract with Virgin continued and eventually led to the 1988 release of Miss America. O’Hara later reflected on the production experience, noting “I loved the Celtic crosses and the sheep rolling around the hills by the studio in Wales. But for Virgin to go from, ‘You can do whatever you want’, to ‘What have you done?’—that was tough.”
In addition, she did some work as a graphic artist, including lettering for the cover of Dalbello’s album whomanfoursays.
In 1987, Michael Brook saw O’Hara in performance and soon took on the job of producing O’Hara’s attempts at an album. He ultimately added new vocals to and remixed material that was originally recorded by Joe Boyd in 1984. At least one of the songs, “To Cry About”, had been written as early as 1980. According to the liner notes of a later reissue, six of the tracks were recorded in 1984, four in 1988, and one in 1983 and mixed later.
On their 1990 album The Caution Horses, the Cowboy Junkies recorded a sparse, haunting version of O’Hara’s song “You Will Be Loved Again”. In 1991, O’Hara followed up with a four-song EP of Christmas material. Following the Christmas EP, O’Hara took on several acting roles and appeared as a vocalist on recordings by a variety of other artists, including Morrissey (“November Spawned a Monster”), John & Mary, Bruce Cockburn, Holly Cole, Bob Wiseman, Meryn Cadell, The Henrys and Neko Case. She performed Dark, Dear Heart at John Candy’s funeral in March 1994. She also contributed songs to a number of compilation albums, including tributes to Vic Chesnutt and Kurt Weill, and participated in a 1994 Christmas concert with Holly Cole, Rebecca Jenkins, Jane Siberry and Victoria Williams, which was released as the album Count Your Blessings. As well, she has occasionally performed in musical theatre, most notably productions of Tom Waits’ experimental rock opera The Black Rider, stealing the show according to Pitchfork.com.
During an R.E.M. concert in Toronto in 1999, Michael Stipe brought O’Hara on stage and declared her a “national treasure” . Other artists who are said to be fans include Kristin Hersh, Radiohead, Dave Matthews and Rickie Lee Jones. However, she did not release a new recording under her own name until 2001, when she and longtime guitarist Rusty McCarthy contributed to the soundtrack for the Canadian film Apartment Hunting (in which she also acted).
On October 4 and 5, 2006, O’Hara performed Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” (with Gavin Friday) and “The Window” at “Came So Far For Beauty” the Leonard Cohen Tribute organised by Hal Willner at The Point Theatre in Dublin, Ireland. She performed at the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in Minehead, England, over the weekend of April 27 to 29, 2007, and with Howe Gelb and friends at the Barbican Centre in London on May 2, 2007.
O’Hara also performed at Toronto’s Canwest Cabaret Festival in both 2008 and 2009. In 2008, she performed at tribute shows to Cohen, Weill and Duke Ellington, and in 2009, she participated in a musical improvisation show with Michael Snow and Aidan Closs. She also gave a rare radio interview to promote the 2009 show, appearing on CBC Radio One’s Q on October 28 — and performing an impromptu duet of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” with host Jian Ghomeshi.
O’Hara sings the theme song for Someone Knows Something, a true-crime podcast from the CBC. The song was written by Bob Wiseman.
On Sunday, November 12, 2017 O’Hara performed a rare live show at Le Guess Who? Festival in Utrecht, The Netherlands. O’Hara was invited by artist Perfume Genius who curated a program for the festival.