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.

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Obituaries, Books

Obituary: Sam "the Record Man" Sniderman

He said it, he did it. Sam “the Record Man” Sniderman loved catch phrases and used them frequently to promote himself and the family business that bore his name. But, unlike the claims of many entrepreneurial blowhards, Sam’s slogans were no empty boasts. He actually did create the “best chain of record stores in Canada, with great music at great prices,” like he boldly predicted he would, and built a reputation as the greatest promoter of domestic talent that Canadian music ever had. Long before CanCon regulations, which he helped to usher in, Sniderman made a habit of giving prominent display space in his stores to domestic artists. Gordon Lightfoot remembers how Sniderman faithfully stock...

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Feist wins Polaris Music Prize 2012

I had the honor of introducing Feist at the Polaris Music Prize gala on Sept. 24 at Toronto's historic Masonic Temple. She won the prize, after performing "Caught a Long Wind" and "The Bad in Each Other." I was pleased, as Metals is an extraordinary album and had been my number one pick all along. Here's what I said in my introduction: After the runaway success of The Reminder, Feist needed a clean slate. She found it in Big Sur, a place of stunning vistas and quiet reflection. Working there with longtime partners Mocky and Chilly Gonzales, she discovered a new range of expression and forged an album of rare depth and beauty. Feist found inspiration in the elements and cast them into alloys ...

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Richard Bell: Full Tilt Boogie's dazzling keyboardist

Among blues-rock soloists and accompanists, he had few equals. An exceptional pianist, organist and accordion player, Richard Bell left his mark on more than 400 albums, some of which he also produced, arranged and composed and sang on. Renowned for his sense of humor as well as his dazzling keyboard chops, the Toronto-born Bell performed with such legendary figures as Janis Joplin, Paul Butterfield and Bob Dylan and played a supporting role in some key events in rock ’n’ roll history. When he died last week at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital, after a year-long battle with cancer, friends and associates around the world mourned the loss of a beloved and highly respected musician who, according...

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Obituary: Jazz giant Oscar Peterson

Few pianists swung as hard or played as fast and with as many grace notes as Canada’s Oscar Peterson. The classically trained musician could play it all, from Chopin and Liszt to blues, stride, boogie, bebop and beyond. He led his own jazz trios, performed with such legendary figures as Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong, who called him “the man with four hands,” recorded more than 200 albums and wrote such memorable works as “Hymn to Freedom” and the “Canadiana Suite.” “A virtuoso without peer,” concluded his biographer, Gene Lees, in The Will to Swing. When Peterson died this week, music lovers around the world mourned the loss of a lyrical stylist and one of...

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Billy Bryans, a cultural bridge builder who changed the sound of Canadian music

Billy Bryans was best known as the drummer and founding member of the Parachute Club, the Juno Award-winning political rock group famous for its anthemic hit “Rise Up.” But his credits and contributions ran much deeper and he may ultimately be remembered as a cultural bridge builder who changed the sound of Canadian music. As a musician, Bryans performed and recorded with bands across the musical spectrum, from rock and blues to punk and African styles. At the height of the new wave era, playing in several groups at once, he was often seen pushing his drum kit on a trolley from club to club along Toronto’s Queen Street. His work as a record producer was equally eclectic, working with everyon...

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Obituary: Whitney Houston

In 1985, I was invited to a small reception in a Toronto hotel to meet a young woman who was already creating a major industry buzz. Besides being gospel great Cissy Houston’s daughter, Dionne Warwick’s cousin and Aretha Franklin’s goddaughter, Whitney had been signed by Clive Davis, a man with proven ears for talent. The moment Whitney walked into the room, I was struck by her natural beauty and youthful innocence. Just 22, she was fresh-faced and shy, yet already so poised. Sweet and soft-spoken, we chatted together about her new album and upcoming tour. There was an air of barely contained excitement about her, like a debutante at her coming-out ball. Less than a year later, Whitney had b...

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What was your favorite Canadian song of the 1990s?

 Poll Results What was your favorite Canadian song of the 1990s? Constant Craving - kd lang 18  votes 18%   Life is a Highway - Tom Cochrane 13 votes  13%   Hasn't Hit Me Yet - Blue Rodeo 13 votes  13%   If I Had a Million Dollars - Barenaked Ladies 12 votes  12%   You Oughta Know - Alanis Morissette 10 votes  10%   Coax Me - Sloan 9 votes  9%   Secret Heart - Ron Sexsmith 9 votes  9%   El Desierto - Lhasa 7 votes  7%   Building a Mystery - Sarah McLachlan 5 votes  5%   Any Man of Mine - Shania Twain 2  votes 2%   The Mummer's Dance - Loreena McKennitt 1 vote  1%   Informer - Sn...

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Nick's Picks: Best Albums of 2011

1. Metals Feist Feist presented a brand new slate, mixing hard and soft alloys to forge an album of rare depth and beauty.   2. Bon Iver Bon Iver From bucolic backwoods balladry to hypnotic electro-pop symphonies, his transformation has been masterful.   3. The Harrow & the Harvest Gillian Welch More exquisite folk songs that sound like they were handed down through the ages.   4. So Beautiful or So What Paul Simon Songs about love and faith, steeped in African kora, Indian tabla and southern gospel.   5. Ashes & Fire Ryan Adams Rarely has the prolific, wildly talented tunesmith sounded this inspired.   6. Helplessness Blues Fleet Foxes Darker and deeper, but...

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Life is a Highway: Canadian Pop Music in the '90s

LIFE IS A HIGHWAY: CANADIAN POP MUSIC IN THE ’90sTWO-PART SPECIAL AIRS THURSDAY, SEPT. 15 AND 22, AT 8 P.M. September 8, 2011- Following on the tremendous success of previous series on Canadian music in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, CBC Television presents LIFE IS A HIGHWAY: CANADIAN POP MUSIC IN THE ’90s, airing Sept. 15 and 22 at 8 p.m. (8:30 NT). CBC-TV has been chronicling the musical landmarks of this country—decade by decade, style by style, and groundbreaker by groundbreaker. LIFE IS A HIGHWAY completes the next chapter in Canada’s amazing pop music journey. The ’90s were marked by hit songs from Canadian performers as diverse as Tom Cochrane, Sloan, Loreena McKennitt, The Tragically Hip,...

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Toronto cultural landmark lost

From Heritage Toronto

335 Yonge Street (The Empress Hotel) Destroyed by Fire

January 4, 2011 - 12:30pm

How can we better protect our heritage?

The Empress Hotel at 335 Yonge Street was destroyed yesterday in an early morning fire. Located on the southeast corner of Yonge Street and Gould Street, the Empress Hotel (1888) is a three-storey commercial building. The property was included on the City of Toronto's Inventory of Heritage Properties in 1974, and was designated last year under the Ontario Heritage Act in response to a demolition application.

From the Intent to Designate Report: "The Empress Hotel has design value as a well-crafted example of a late 19th century commercial building that blends elements of the popular Second Empire and Romanesque Revival styles of the era. The distinctive corner tower with a classically detailed mansard roof from Second Empire styling is combined with the monumental round-arched openings that typify the Romanesque Revival style in a carefully crafted composition designed to enhance the presence of the building on Toronto's most prominent commercial street.

Contextually, the Empress Hotel is a local landmark on the southeast corner of Yonge Street and

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