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.

Subcategories from this category:

Obituaries, Books

Sheila Chandra - Drone Sweet Drone

One of the most beguiling albums of the summer of 1994 is Sheila Chandra's The Zen Kiss (Real World/Virgin). Like Chandra’s previous Weaving My Ancestors' Voices, it's a recording of solo voice with simple drone-note accompaniment. But the songs are so rich and the vocal techniques so entrancing that the album comes across as a deep, full-bodied work. The Zen Kiss draws on influences as diverse as Islamic, Andalusian, Bulgarian and Celtic musics. And, of course, being of East Indian heritage, Chandra also employs ragas and classical Indian musical ornamentations—always anchored by the incessant drone. As she writes in the liner notes: "The concept of drone has been important in bringing thes...

Continue reading
  609 Hits

k-os and the changing sound of hip-hop

Pigeonholing is an act of laziness, while stereotyping stems from ignorance and prejudice. Either way, for those targeted, it’s a cultural straitjacket—something that Kevin Brereton knows all too well. Growing up black in middle-class Whitby, Ontario, Brereton discovered that corner-store owners only suspected him of shoplifting, never his white friends. As k-os, Brereton learned that narrow musical definitions would restrict him from singing as well as rapping, and from adding acoustic guitar and piano to hip-hop’s usual soundscape. But he did it anyway. “It’s just how I express myself,” says Brereton modestly. “It doesn’t make me a revolutionary.” Modesty aside, k-os is in the vanguard of ...

Continue reading
  1048 Hits

Glenn Lewis - The sexy side of soul

Smooth, slow and seductive, Glenn Lewis’ debut album, World Outside My Window, was the musical equivalent of a candlelight dinner. Packed with power ballads and laced with Lewis’ soulful, Stevie Wonder-like vocals, it was also a commercial smash, reaching # 4 on Billboard’s Top 200 and featuring the Top 10 hit “Don’t You Forget It.” The Toronto-born singer suddenly found himself in the vanguard of the neo-soul revolution, alongside the likes of Macy Gray and Alicia Keys. So why has Lewis opted for a rougher, more uptempo and decidedly sexier sound on his second album, Back for More? "I’m in a good place right now and the album reflects that,” says the coolly confident Lewis, w...

Continue reading
  820 Hits

Sandy Bozzo - Barber to the Stars

If you were a musician on Yonge Street in the 1960s, chances are, you had your suits made by Lou Myles and your hair cut by Sandy Bozzo. Together with his brother Frank, Sandy began cutting hair not long after arriving in Toronto as a 14-year-old from Cosenza, in Calabria, Italy. Born Santino and Ignazio, the brothers set up shop in 1958 at 413 Yonge. For the next 63 years, Frank and Sandy cut hair, always on Yonge Street—and, for 40 of those years, always on the east side of Yonge, between Gerrard and College.  Sandy’s first experience with show business was the day two boys from Arkansas sauntered in, looking to get a wash and a haircut. “We told them, ‘We can cut, but we can’t afford...

Continue reading
  1715 Hits

Roaring Lion's "Jail Dem"

Of all the great old-time calypsonians, few could match Trinidad and Tobago’s Roaring Lion for witty wordplay and mellifluous melodies. With his rapid-fire delivery, he could easily out-duel contemporaries like Tiger, Atilla the Hun and Lord Executor with wickedly sharp metaphors, alliteration and insults. And he didn’t shy away from tackling the most risqué subjects.  One of Roaring Lion’s most famous recorded songs, “Netty Netty,” about a prostitute who leaves town to have an abortion, was banned in parts of the Caribbean. “Dorothy Went to Bathe” tells of a girl who lost her virginity to a catfish, while “The Lost Watch (Tik, Tik, Tik)” deals with a woman who steals a watch and h...

Continue reading
  835 Hits

Uncovering Canadian rock's early years

The story of rock and roll’s arrival in Canada has often been reduced to this: a good ol’ boy from Arkansas named Rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins blew into Toronto with his Hawks in 1958 and cast a hypnotic spell on unsuspecting Canadian audiences.  While it’s true that Hawkins did much to popularize rock music north of the 49th parallel, there were other, often unsung pioneers here already laying the groundwork. And that’s the strength of Greig Stewart’s new book Hawkins, Hound Dog, Elvis and Red: How Rock and Roll Invaded Canada. Stewart pays tribute to performers like Bobby Dean (Blackburn) and the Gems, Frank Motley and his Motley Crew, Little Caesar and the Consuls, Les Vogt and t...

Continue reading
  1133 Hits

Mariposa Folk Festival - 60 years ago

Sixty years ago this week, an estimated 5,000 people flooded into tiny Orillia, Ontario to attend the first Mariposa Folk Festival. Here is an excerpt from Before the Gold Rush about that historic inaugural event: Sitting in neatly arranged rows of canvas chairs, a buttoned-down crowd of 2,000 watched the inaugural Mariposa unfold one August weekend in 1961. The audience, mostly university students from Toronto, had travelled to Orillia on the shores of Lake Couchiching to hear an all-Canadian line-up headed by Sylvia Fricker and Ian Tyson, whoʼd also donated his artistic skills to create the stylized orange sun that dominated the festivalʼs poster. On the opening Friday night, fol...

Continue reading
  1091 Hits

JoJo Bennett - Reggae trailblazer

JoJo Bennett was a Jamaican orphan who found his calling when a teacher handed him a horn. Excelling on the trumpet, he grew to become a successful touring musician, songwriter and recording artist. In Canada, he added award-winning bandleader and owner of a recording studio and record label to his accomplishments. But he never forgot his roots, also starting his own music school along the way. Mr. Bennett, who died on Aug. 3 at the age of 81, may have been best known as the charismatic, dreadlocked figure in celebrated Canadian pop-reggae band the Sattalites. But after his passing, those close to him remembered a wise, modest man they affectionately called “Guru” and “Teach.” “Jo was a beau...

Continue reading
  1430 Hits

Music in Downsview

Everyone knows that SARSStock, featuring the Rolling Stones, AC-DC, Rush and others, took place in Downsview. But few are aware that Downsview is also notable for once having Canada’s largest nightclub and an auditorium featuring Toronto’s biggest bands. In fact, Downsview at one time was a go-to destination for music lovers, who ventured uptown and “out west” to attend weekly dances in the neighbourhood’s community halls, church basements, and YMCAs. Country music and rock ’n’ roll were the early draws. But, later, the area also became a major breeding ground for hip-hop and R&B. A deeper dive into this history reveals how live music in Downsview began in the late 1950s with countr...

Continue reading
  867 Hits

Ellen McIlwaine - Goddess of Slide

Ellen McIlwaine was the epitome of an adventurous spirit: fierce and independent, the flame-haired artist took her musical gifts in surprising directions, defying expectations at every turn. As a virtuoso slide guitarist with a seismic voice, she excelled in a male-dominated field, leading her bands with a bold musical style that transcended genre and culture. “There is a deep well of the music spirit that lives in me and comes out when I play,” Ms. McIlwaine told interviewer Paul Corby in 2019, when she was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Toronto Blues Society. “I think a lot of people play with me and through me, and sing with me and through me. It’s really a mystical experienc...

Continue reading
  1599 Hits