“Family dysfunction, it’s one of my favorite topics. I come from kind of a dysfunctional family, but so do many of us.”
As a singer-songwriter, Loudon Wainwright III has made a career of putting intimate details from his private life under the microscope and out into the world. And on his his latest release, Lifetime Achievement, the 76-year-old artist once again succeeds in connecting the personal to the universal. For this Acoustic Guitar Session, Wainwright, Martin D-28 in tow, performs two tunes from the album—one a little sour and one unexpectedly sweet.
First up is “Fam Vac,” which takes a lighthearted look at family outings and indulges a feeling/fantasy most of us have experienced. Then, on “Lifetime Achievement,” Wainwright looks back on his life, his legacy, and his love, no punchline needed.
I asked about the subject of the title track’s refrain:
The biggest prize/ the great surprise/ is I managed to find you
Who needs cash and prizes / what I achieved is you
He was quick to answer: “Is there a specific you? Well, you know, there is. I’m thinking about my girlfriend, Susan, who I’ve been living with for nine years. It’s about her and me. But it’s also about my audience in a sense. It could be, anyway . . . ”
I started to ask him about the relationship between and artist and audience, but he wisely cut me off, “Susan inspired the song, let me say that much, because I don’t want to get into any trouble when I get back home.“
Wainwright seems to be on solid footing; of the two songs, it’s hard to imagine “Lifetime Achievement“ causing any disharmony at home! —Joey Lusterman
Special thanks to our friends at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley, CA for accommodating our shoot!