The Kate McGarrigle I knew, by British singer-songwriter Linda Thompson

Linda Thompson recalls the extraordinary musical talent and wit of her friend, the Canadian musician Kate McGarrigle, who died of cancer on 18 January, aged 63.

Must buy a McDonald's franchise… that was my initial thought on hearing Kate and Anna McGarrigle's first record in 1975. I didn't think I could ever do anything that good, and fast food suddenly seemed like a viable career option. Kate and I knew and liked each other already – we'd been introduced by the record producer Joe Boyd (who worked with Pink Floyd, Sandy Denny, Nick Drake and Fairport Convention, among others), not to mention had quite a lot in common. But it wasn't until our children became friends that we really got to be close. Only Kate went to more Rufus and Martha gigs than me.

Actually, the first time we met properly we had our babies in tow, and Kate said: "Maimuna! What kind of name is that?" and I said: "In England, Rufus is a dog's name." We both burst out laughing and a friendship was cemented. She wasn't one for waxing lyrical about things, whereas if I like stuff, I gush like an oil well, but between us we almost always came to the right conclusion about everything and everyone. Our premonition that Muna and Rufus would grow up and marry didn't work out so well.

She stayed with me last year when her first grandchild, Arcangelo, was born very prematurely. In the few and far between times that she wasn't at the hospital with Martha and the baby, she was teaching me harmonies for the Christmas show which was to be her last. She also made a huge Thanksgiving dinner for both our families. By then she was very ill, though she never once alluded to it. I tried to coax her to eat Weetabix and honey for breakfast, and we'd sit at the table and reminisce. We had some stories.

Of course, I should talk a little about the musical legacy that is Rufus and Martha. She fed, clothed, cajoled, bullied, taught, cried and laughed them towards the extraordinary artists they are today. Their loss is great, but their gain is greater.

That she was a wonderful musician goes without saying. Every singer-songwriter longs to write that one song that people will remember. She wrote more than one. I still can't hear her sing "Go Leave" without sobbing; that's the kind of reaction I demand from music, and she gave it in spades. Kate, Kate, "Here's tae ye. Wha's like ye? Damn few, and they're all deid."

Linda Thompson

The GuardianTramp

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