Gordon Lightfoot, who passed away May 1, would have turned 85 today. His legacy includes songs that will live on for decades to come. Success didn’t come easy for him. In the beginning, Lightfoot worked hard at learning everything there was to know about music.
Long before his first hit records, Lightfoot tried choir singing, barbershopping, pop crooning, jazz drumming and square dancing. While in a folk duo called the Two Tones, he even jumped on the Belafonte craze and belted out a
calypso. When he was 19 and studying jazz composition and orchestration at the Westlake College of Music in Hollywood, Lightfoot and three fellow students moonlighted as the Four Winds, recording backup vocals on studio sessions.
One of those gigs was singing behind Johnny Stark, a rising rockabilly star. The four classmates provided harmonies and handclaps on Stark’s upbeat “Rockin’ Billy” and doo-wop backing on the jazz-tinged "Cold Coffee." For Lightfoot, it was just another lesson in his all-round music education.