Loudon Wainwright III box set ’40 Odd Years’ coming in May; co-produced by Judd Apatow


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Loudon Wainwright III, the veteran singer-songwriter whose songs over the last four decades have been characterized by black humor, inventive word play and witty observations about relationships, gets his own career retrospective when Shout! Factory Records issues the five-disc “40 Odd Years” box set on May 3.

Filmmaker Judd Apatow, a longtime fan of Wainwright’s skewed sense of humor, is co-producer of the project and wrote the introduction to the 87 tracks on four CDs. Rolling Stone contributing editor David Wild has written an essay as part of the 40-page book included with the set.

Apatow, who cast Wainwright as a TV dad in his short-lived Fox situation comedy “Undeclared” and then tapped him to score the music for his film “Knocked Up,” told The Times in 2007: ‘If I had never been exposed to Loudon, I would probably just be writing fantastic [male anatomy]
jokes, but nothing more. Loudon’s work ... is a powerful reminder to me that I must always be
honest, funny and true to myself.’

The fifth disc in the box set is a DVD with more than three hours of video of various performances from a musician who in recent years has increasingly been identified as the father of Rufus and Martha Wainwright and Lucy Wainwright Roche, who also has recently begun a recording career.

But the family patriarch remains widely respected among fans and critics for trenchant insights into human foibles, even though his strongest showing on the pop charts came with the freak success of his 1973 novelty hit “Dead Skunk,” which peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 16.

Johnny Cash recorded Wainwright’s 1973 song “The Man Who Couldn’t Cry” on his 1994 “American Recordings” album, the first of his latter-day career renaissance collaborations with producer Rick Rubin. Last year, Wainwright’s salute to the music of an early 20th century country troubadour, ‘High Wide & Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project,’ won a Grammy Award for traditional folk album.


-- Randy Lewis