Gordon Lightfoot Book, Music and More!

The home of music journalist Nicholas Jennings, author of Lightfoot, the definitive new Gordon Lightfoot biography from Penguin Random House.

Drew Gonsalves: Calypso's Crown Prince

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On a wintery night at Toronto’s plush Koerner Hall, inside the city’s stately Royal Conservatory of Music, two generations of calypso stars are busy heating up the audience. Onstage in the foreground is the reigning queen, Trinidad & Tobago’s Calypso Rose. Just behind her is the crown prince, Drew Gonsalves, whose Canadian band Kobo Town has opened the show and is now backing the headliner. As the cheeky Rose sings and shimmies through her set to the crowd’s delight, the bearded, bespectacled, guitar-strumming Gonsalves is visibly beaming: he co-wrote and arranged many of the songs Rose is performing, all taken from her award-winning comeback album, Far From Home . And now he and the sep...
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Movin' On: Lightfoot's love affair with trains

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Gordon Lightfoot has always been fascinated by big mechanical things like trains and boats and planes, and man’s relationship to them. Three of his most famous songs, “Early Morning Rain,” “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” deal in the romance and tragedy of human interaction with the machinery of those forms of transportation. Personal and poetic, “Early Morning Rain” expressed a palpable longing while expertly contrasting the rural past and urban present in one brilliant line about freight trains and jet planes. Lightfoot placed himself directly in the story, summoning his own experience of travel and homesickness for inspiration. His memories of big 707s...
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Music Review: Elise LeGrow - Playing Chess

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She’s not entirely new to the scene, having released a pop music EP in 2013. But Canada’s Elise LeGrow is now getting an international buzz, thanks to her sizzling debut album, Playing Chess . Working with soul legend Betty Wright, the Roots’ Questlove and members of the Dap Kings, who once backed Amy Winehouse, the 30-year-old Toronto singer puts a fresh spin on classic r&b songs from Chicago’s iconic Chess record label. She turns Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell” into a wistful ballad, gives Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love” a haunting rock edge and transforms Fontella Bass’s “Rescue Me,” into slow, sultry jazz. Already the album, released on New York’s S-Curve Records, home of Joss Ston...
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The McGarrigles' Mountain City roots

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Before they became the darlings of the folk scene and the revered singer-songwriters behind such classics as “Heart Like a Wheel” and “Talk to Me of Mendocino,” Kate and Anna McGarrigle performed in a little-known Montreal singing group. It was the early 1960s and coffeehouses were springing up everywhere, filled with earnest folksingers and attentive audiences. The McGarrigle sisters were just teenagers when they joined musicians Jack Nissenson and Peter Weldon in 1962, calling themselves the Mountain City Four. “We entered into the folk scene through the records of Joan Baez and Bob Dylan,” Kate recalled. “But when we met Nissenson and Weldon, they introduced us to music at the sources and...
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Nico sings Gord: The coolest Lightfoot cover of all

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Gordon Lightfoot has had some remarkable artists record his songs. Elvis Presley, Judy Collins and Bob Dylan have all lent their distinctive voices to “Early Morning Rain” and Barbara Streisand, Johnny Cash and Diana Krall have each interpreted “If You Could Read My Mind.” “Sundown,” meanwhile, has been given wildly varied punk and hip-hop treatments by acts such as Elwood and Clawhammer. But the Lightfoot song that has attracted by far the coolest attention has been “I’m Not Sayin.’” For that, credit goes to the German-born chanteuse Nico, later of Velvet Underground fame. The influence of her 1965 version, with production and guitar accompaniment by the Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones and futu...
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