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.

Blue Rodeo - Urban Cowboys

The concert began and ended badly. Minutes before the members of Blue Rodeo were due onstage at the student lounge of Erindale College in suburban Toronto, the band’s manager, John Caton, had been refused admittance. A student security guard with a penchant for protocol insisted that because Caton had no photo identification proving he was old enough to drink, the manager—who is 39—could not go in. Undeterred, Blue Rodeo gave a spirited two-hour performance. Yet some people in the audience of 300 failed to give the show their full attention: it had been exam week, and several students were more interested in consuming large quantities of beer than in listening to the band’s thoughtful brand ...

Continue reading
  2248 Hits

Bobby Dean Blackburn - Deep blues and soulful highs

There are few personal histories as rich as Bobby Dean Blackburn’s. His musical legacy, which runs from the birth of rock ’n’ roll and rhythm & blues in Toronto through to his sons’ Juno-nominated blues band, is as long as Yonge Street itself. Bobby Dean’s ancestral story goes even deeper: his great-grandfather was a U.S. slave who found freedom in Canada on the Underground Railroad. For over half a century, he has paid tribute to that heritage with annual performances at Owen Sound’s Emancipation Festival. Now the veteran musician, who turns 80 later this year, plans to add to his lengthy list of accomplishments. Along with a double album of ballads and gospel songs on the horizon, a fo...

Continue reading
  2517 Hits

Leonard Cohen - The return of the modern troubadour

Leonard Cohen, hailed 20 years ago as Canada’s answer to Bob Dylan, had slipped into obscurity. It was the mid-1980s, and audiences seemed more interested in carefree pop music than in the modern-day troubadour’s philosophical, often bleak compositions. Then, Jennifer Warnes came along. The Los Angeles singer had begun performing Montreal-born Cohen’s material in 1969 and, later, toured with him as a backup vocalist. In 1986 she used her lush soprano voice to interpret a selection of his songs. The resulting album, Famous Blue Raincoat, sold more than 750,000 copies worldwide. And while that success brought Warnes major stardom, it has also helped rejuvenate Cohen’s musical career. With...

Continue reading
  2164 Hits

Feature Article: Sarah Harmer - Harmer's Charm

Sarah Harmer is no technical whiz. Sure, like any musician, she knows her way around a recording studio. She has a cellphone and an email-equipped laptop computer, which she tries to use to correspond with family and friends. Her record distributor even gave her a digital voice recorder for Christmas, which Harmer took on a Mexican vacation in the hope of capturing song ideas. Unfortunately, she left it switched on and the batteries were dead before she could figure out how to use it. Then, when Harmer returned to Canada, her old Ford Econoline van, which she’d left parked at her parents’ farm outside of Burlington, Ont., wouldn’t start. Alone in the farmyard, she was more than a little frus...

Continue reading
  1500 Hits

Feature Article: Jane Siberry - The Eccentric Charms of a Pop Poet

Dressed in white lace stockings and a silky smoking jacket, she fluttered tentatively around the stage. With her frail figure and whispery voice, she seemed fragile under the spotlight’s glare. But as her pulsing, ethereal music gathered momentum, Jane Siberry spun a web around her audience in Detroit two weeks ago. At 29, Siberry has been hailed in Rolling Stone magazine as a “fascinating” new artist, and many critics feel she is the finest Canadian songwriter to appear in a decade. Once considered too eccentric for popular tastes, the Toronto singer is emerging into pop’s mainstream: her North American tour of 50 cities is currently under way, and last week 30,000 copies of her t...

Continue reading
  1892 Hits

King Sunny Adé - The African Beat

After exhausting the musical possibilities of rhythm and blues over the past 30 years, pop music is searching for ways to rejuvenate itself. The Police found success with their own brand of Jamaican reggae, and such bands as Talking Heads, the English Beat and Culture Club have eagerly borrowed ingredients from other Third World sources. Now musicians— including the Police—are turning to Africa for inspiration. Of all the sounds to come out of that continent recently the most influential—and exotic—is the juju music of Nigeria’s King Sunny Adé. Last week Adé played two triumphant concerts in Montreal and Toronto to coincide with Synchro System, his first album to be released in Canada. ...

Continue reading
  2200 Hits

Maestro leads the big rap attack

It begins with one of the most recognizable riffs in Canadian music: a simple piano intro that goes “dum, da-da-dadum, da-dum, da-da-da-dum.” Written by CanRock legends Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings, it’s the introduction to “These Eyes,” the Guess Who’s massive international hit of 1969. But then a sliding guitar cuts in, followed by some thumping bass and drums. By the time a voice starts rapping about being “in this game a long, long time,” the song has been transformed into something entirely different. “It’s Stick to Your Vision,” the new hit by Maestro, the Canadian artist formerly known as Maestro Fresh Wes. “I’ve seen a lot of valleys, I’ve seen a lot of peaks,” he reminisces in ...

Continue reading
  1200 Hits

Dream Warriors - A fresh spin on rap

The setting was a public-housing unit in the Toronto suburb of Willowdale. But the two young men were basking in an unmistakably Caribbean atmosphere. The townhouse was filled with the pungent smell of a West Indian fish fry, and a video of a Jamaican reggae dance was playing on the TV. It seemed an unlikely base for two of the fastest-rising stars in rap music, a musical style more associated with U.S. ghettos than Canadian suburbs. But Caribbean-born King Lou (Louis Robinson) and Capital Q (Frank Allert) have made a name for themselves, as the Dream Warriors, by revolutionizing rap music. Said Q: “Everyone’s accustomed to rap with guys swearing and bragging about themselves and violence. W...

Continue reading
  1384 Hits

Feature Article: The Fight Over Golden Oldies

Even from an artist renowned for outrageous behavior, the action was a shocking sight. In August, 1984, Richard Penniman—better known as Little Richard, the flamboyant 1950s rocker—began picketing an office building in downtown Los Angeles. The rock star was not on strike; he was on a crusade. The offices belonged to ATV Music Corp., one of the world’s largest song publishers. Little Richard’s claim: that ATV, along with Specialty Records and Venice Music, owed him millions of dollars in royalties for “Tutti-Frutti,” “Good Golly Miss Molly” and other classic Little Richard hits. Four months later his $115-million lawsuit against those companies was thrown out of U.S. Federal Court. Now, Litt...

Continue reading
  1156 Hits

The Band - And The Band Plays On

For defunct rock groups, 1983 has become the year of the reunion. Among the acts from rock’s golden years re-forming are The Guess Who, The Animals, The Hollies and Simon and Garfunkel. But the most unexpected return is that of The Band, Canada’s most celebrated rock ensemble. Its farewell concert seven years ago was so lavish and final that it made any suggestion of reunion seem dishonest. Now, with a two-week, 11-city Canadian tour that included a July 4 stop in Toronto (at the CNE Bandshell), The Band is back, although without the services of guitarist Robbie Robertson. From the heady days of the southern Ontario bar circuit in the 1960s to Martin Scorsese’s touching movie tribute, T...

Continue reading
  943 Hits