Nicholas Jennings is one of Canada’s most respected music journalists. Nicholas was the music critic and feature writer for Maclean’s magazine from 1980 to 2000. In addition to Maclean’s, he has written for Saturday Night, Billboard, Words & Music, TV Guide, Inside Entertainment and Hello! magazines, reviewing literally thousands of recordings and interviewing and profiling many of the world’s leading artists, from Oscar Peterson, Paul Simon, Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney to Joni Mitchell, Sarah McLachlan, Diana Krall and Shania Twain. For newspapers, he has written on music for The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail and, from 1992 to 1998, contributed the “Global Groove” column to Toronto’s eye weekly. And he has been a frequent guest on CBC Radio, as a panelist on 50 Tracks and a regular contributor to Inside the Music.
Nicholas is also one of Canada’s finest music historians. He traces his interest in music history to Yorkville’s famous Riverboat coffeehouse, where he witnessed performances by many legendary musicians as he worked there as a dishwasher while studying journalism at Ryerson University. That experience eventually led to his first book, Before the Gold Rush: Flashbacks to the Dawn of the Canadian Sound (Penguin), a critically acclaimed history of the Yorkville era of Canadian music in the 1960s that became a national best-seller.
Nicholas’ next book, Fifty Years of Music: The Story of EMI Music Canada (Macmillan), examined Canadian music over a half-century-year period, as seen through the perspective of one of Canada’s foremost record labels, and received praise for its lively anecdotes and engaging design.
With his deep knowledge of Canadian music history, Nicholas has been commissioned by record labels to write extensive liner notes for many of the country’s top artists, including Ian & Sylvia, Bruce Cockburn, Murray McLauchlan and Stompin’ Tom Connors. He penned an 8,000-word biography of Gordon Lightfoot for Songbook, the popular four-CD Lightfoot box set issued in 1999 by Rhino Records.
Of all of Nicholas’ work, Before the Gold Rush has brought him the greatest acclaim. Mojo magazine described the book as a “treasure trove,” Billboard pronounced it “indispensable” and Quill & Quire called it “an invaluable addition to our understanding of our musical heritage, popular culture and political history.” Maclean’s cited its storytelling qualities, saying “the narrative runs like a train, picking up passengers one by one, tracking their interrelationships, creating an underlying sense of accumulation and momentum.”
Before the Gold Rush formed the basis of the acclaimed TV documentary Shakin’ All Over. Nicholas provided the research, conducted the interviews, wrote the narration and acted as associate producer for the two-hour program. First aired on CBC in 2006 and released on DVD by EMI in 2008, Shakin’ All Over attracted rave reviews across Canada. Montreal Gazette called it “must-see viewing” and the Winnipeg Free Press found it “superbly crafted,” while The Globe and Mail declared it “vastly entertaining and an education.” The success of Shakin’ All Over led to the two sequels covering the 1970s and ’80s in Canadian music: This Beat Goes On and Rise Up, airing on CBC in August and September 2009.