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.

The aboriginal beat

It seemed a blues night like any other: a smoky room, beer in abundance and a packed dance floor. But the event last month, sponsored by the Toronto Blues Society, had a unique twist. Titled Real Rez Blues, it was a showcase of U.S. and Canadian aboriginal performers, all with a penchant for the classic, 12-bar form. Five acts appeared before the mostly native crowd of more than 800, including headliner Murray Porter, one of native music's rising stars. A baritone reminiscent of rhythm-and-blues great Percy Sledge, Porter thrilled the audience with his gritty versions of B. B. King and Big Joe Turner tunes. But when he sang his own 1492 Who Found Who, about Christopher Columbus, the Mohawk m...
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Celtic dreams

Celtic music performer Loreena McKennitt It was a ritual that ended up paying handsome dividends. Every Saturday for three years, Loreena McKennitt would rise before dawn, load her 50-lb. harp into the back of her beat-up Honda Civic and drive 150 km from her rented farmhouse in Stratford, Ont., to the St. Lawrence Market in downtown Toronto. There, McKennitt would find a spot amid the bustle of shoppers and shouting vendors. Her fiery red hair tumbling down over Elizabethan-style clothing, she sang ancient Celtic songs of mystery and romance to the ethereal strains of her instrument. The musician stopped more than a few passers-by dead in their tracks. And the appreciative ones tossed money...
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No More Class Clowns

Maclean's  August 22nd 1994 Barenaked Ladies - No more class clowns In a run-down warehouse in Toronto's west end, a film production company has spent the day trying to create a wet look for Jane, the latest video by the Barenaked Ladies. A giant screen provides a blue backdrop, and a machine spewing out clouds of smoke creates a murky underwater effect. Several large reflectors, meanwhile, give the impression of sunlight flickering beneath the water's surface. Ironically, a sudden downpour outside is making everything inside wetter than planned: rain is pouring through holes in the building's roof, forcing crew members to quickly cover equipment. Still, the filming proceeds, and each o...
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Feature Article: Snow - Snow business

Feature Article: Snow - Snow business
As a teenager growing up in the housing projects of north Toronto, Darrin O’Brien did not seem to have much of a future. An indifferent student from a working-class family, he spent much of his time drinking, fighting and getting caught on the wrong side of the law. His police record includes several convictions—for mischief, causing a disturbance and assault. Aside from his skill as a street fighter, O’Brien's only talent was mimicking the thick Jamaican dialect that he heard on reggae records and in his predominantly West Indian neighborhood. Then, in 1989, when he was 19, a brawl involving butcher knives sent him to jail on charges of attempted murder. But prison proved to be a turning po...
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Feature Article: Rush - Rock 'n' Roll Royalty

Feature Article: Rush - Rock 'n' Roll Royalty
Geddy Lee visibly tenses up when he talks about the period when fans drove him and his family out of their east-end Toronto home. It was the late 1970s, and Lee’s band, Rush, was the undisputed champion of arena rock in Canada. He and his wife, Nancy Young, and their small son were leading a quiet life in the Beaches, a middle-class neighborhood, until Rush fans discovered where the band’s bassist-singer lived. From then on, recalls Lee, the family felt besieged as strangers peered through windows and demanded autographs, guitars and even, on occasion, money. Faced with constant intrusions, the Lees fled, settling in an affluent downtown Toronto area. And for more than a decade, the reluctan...
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Feature Article: Stompin' Tom Connors - A rebel's return

Feature Article: Stompin' Tom Connors - A rebel's return
Mild-mannered and moderate, Canadians are generally wary about wrapping themselves in the flag. But Stompin' Tom Connors is unabashed about his patriotism. When the country singer hit the stage last week in Owen Sound, Ont. - his first concert in 13 years - the backdrop was a giant Maple Leaf. As the flag unfolded across the back of a high-school auditorium in the Georgian Bay community, 190 km northwest of Toronto, Connors walked onstage, and the packed audience of 700 greeted him with a standing ovation. Gaunt-faced, wiry and dressed from Stetson to boots in black, the 54-year-old musician from Skinner's Pond, P.E.I., looked more like a villain from a western than a defender of Canadian cu...
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Feature Article: Africa's Cult Musician - Fela Anikulapo Kuti

Feature Article: Africa's Cult Musician - Fela Anikulapo Kuti
When one of Africa’s most celebrated musicians receives visitors at his home in the Nigerian capital of Lagos, he lounges in little more than a striped bathing suit, which tends to slip down in the back. But when Fela Anikulapo Kuti jumps on stage to perform, his costume is a study in flamboyance. He wears a blue jump suit and pants embroidered with saxophones. His act is equally colorful. He sways his saxophone and waves his arms to keep his 27 musicians in line. Between blasts of his multicolored sax, Fela sings in pidgin English the provocative lyrics that have aroused the ire of the military government of his native Nigeria—and which have won him the title of the Afrobeat King, as critic...
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