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 Career
In the year 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.
Michael Brook saw O’Hara in performance and soon took on the job of producing O’Hara’s attempts at an album in 1987. 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.
The Cowboy Junkies recorded a sparse, haunting version of O’Hara’s song “You Will Be Loved Again” on their 1990 album The Caution Horses. 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, the year 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 will perform a rare live show at Le Guess Who? Festival in Utrecht, The Netherlands. O’Hara was invited by artist Perfume Genius who curates a program for the festival.
Mary Margaret O’Hara Filmography
An occasional actress, she appeared in the films The Hunter of 1980, Candy Mountain (1987), and The Events Leading Up to My Death of 1992. It was her appearance in the Canadian film Apartment Hunting, however, that finally broke her stalemate with the studio. The film’s score was largely composed and performed by O’Hara, and even if it wasn’t a proper follow-up album, most of her fans around the world were willing to be forgiving after so lengthy a wait.
Mary Margaret O’Hara Songs
- Anew Day
- Body’s in Trouble
- Breakfast feat. Robby Ameen / Paul Haines / Steve Swallow
- Carol of the Bells feat. Holly Cole / Rebecca Jenkins / Jane Siberry / Victoria Williams
- Christmas Evermore
- Count Your Blessings feat. Holly Cole / Rebecca Jenkins / Jane Siberry / Victoria Williams
- Dear Darling
- He Got Better Things for You
- Heart a Mine feat. Blackie & the Rodeo Kings
- Help Me Lift You Up
- Never, No feat. Holly Cole / Rebecca Jenkins
- To cry About
- The cry of Man
- White Christmas
Mary Margaret O’Hara Video
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