Brief Lives

Erich Segal, author of the Love Story that we almost never knew; Bill McLaren, the 'jolly good fellow' of rugby commentary; and Kate McGarrigle, folk artist among an uncommonly creative brood.

Having overheard a conversation at Yale where he was a classics professor, Erich Segal was inspired to write Love Story. It took him a month over the Christmas break in 1969. His script was rejected until his friend Ali McGraw read it and convinced Paramount to film it, with her in the starring role. She played the poor girl to the rich, well-born Ryan O'Neal. They fall in love, and then she dies. Critics panned the film and the novel, but the public was smitten. One in five Americans were said to have read the book, and the film topped the box office in 1971 and won an Oscar. One of its lines, "Love means not ever having to say you're sorry," became a maxim, and Andy Williams's rendition of the theme tune Where Do I Begin became a classic. Apart from Love Story and some other popular fiction, Segal wrote on Aristophanes and Plautus. "Remember," he once told an interviewer, "even Machiavelli wrote three comedies." Erich Segal, born June 16, 1937; died January 17.

As a commentator for half a century, Bill McLaren was known as "the voice of rugby". Born and raised in Hawick, Roxburghshire, in Scotland, his impartiality, precision and passion for the game delivered with a warm Borders burr, forged an affectionate link with players and fans. A fanatic since boyhood after watching the All Blacks play in Hawick, he was prevented from playing for Scotland by tuberculosis. As a second lieutenant late in the war, he came across 1,500 corpses in an Italian cemetery and always remembered that, as much as rugby was in his veins, "in the great scheme of things it doesn't really matter". A PE teacher after the war, he began to report games for the local paper, before joining BBC radio in 1953. He moved to BBC television in 1962. On his retirement in 2002 the crowd at Cardiff Arms Park sang For He's a Jolly Good Fellow. He was inducted into the Rugby Hall of Fame in 2001 and awarded the CBE in 2003. His grandson Rory Lawson plays for Scotland. Bill McLaren, born October 16, 1923; died January 19.

With an uncommon combination of influences from her father, an Irish Canadian parlour pianist, and her mother, a French Canadian classical violinist, and inspired by seeing, as a schoolgirl in Montreal, Pete Seeger and the Weavers in concert, Kate McGarrigle, with her older sister, Anna, produced, as singer and songwriter, some of the most haunting, beguiling and original contemporary folk music. Their first band, with two boyfriends, Mountain City Four, became one of Montreal's leading folk groups in the Sixties, but the sisters' debut album Kate & Anna McGarrigle in 1976 brought them critical acclaim. They produced 10 albums, generally plaintive, always harmonious but difficult to categorise. Both Linda Ronstadt and Maria Muldaur had hits with their songs. Kate's brief marriage to the singer Loudon Wainwright III produced two talented artists, Rufus and Martha Wainwright, who performed with their mother, aunt, cousins - even their father - on two television specials in 2005. Kate McGarrigle, born February 6, 1946; died January 18.

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