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.

Music Feature: A Palace of Rock - The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

As museum pieces, they are the most humble of artifacts: a few report cards, a black leather jacket, a pair of government-issue eye glasses. Yet for many, the three objects are priceless. Once the property of John Lennon, those treasures are now on display at the recently opened Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, where they are already among its most popular exhibits. Looking at the articles, it is easy to see why: each of them brings the viewer closer to the real Lennon. His elementary school report card reveals that one of his teachers found rock’s future genius “hopeless,” while the well-worn, sloppy jacket somehow perfectly captures the musician’s irreverent charm....

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Music Feature: Femi Kuti - Keeping Fela's Afrobeat alive

His father cast a long shadow. Fela Anikulapo Kuti was a musical star and political icon whose global popularity made him both a hero and an enemy of the state in his native Nigeria. But Femi Kuti has learned to live in that shadow. As the son of the inventor of the politically charged, wildly percussive music known as Afro-beat, Femi has picked up where his legendary father, who died in 1997, left off. Signed to a French record label, Femi has taken Afro-beat and fused it with elements of soul and hip-hop to create one of this spring’s most talked-about releases. Titled Shoki Shoki (Barclay/Universal), the powerful album promises to make a star of the 37-year-old singer-saxophonist, who has...

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Music Feature: Rock of Ages - The Rolling Stones

For a British rock band with a salacious past, the setting was devilishly ironic: a former girls' boarding school, nestled in the moneyed hills of New England. For eight weeks this summer, The Rolling Stones took possession of the secluded Wykeham Rise School in the small northwest Connecticut town of Washington - a two-hour drive from New York City - to prepare for the band's first concert tour in seven years. The three-month tour opened with a blast of raw energy last week in Philadelphia and made a two-concert stop in Toronto this week, before going on to Vancouver, Montreal and about 36 U.S. cities. On a balmy afternoon last month at Wykeham Rise, bassist Bill Wyman, guitarist Ron Wood a...

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Music Feature: Aaron Neville - Warm Your Heart (interview + review)

Aaron Neville’s voice has the power to open doors. When he was a boy in his native New Orleans, he used to sing his way into basketball games and movie theatres, impressing ticket-takers so much with his sidewalk performances that they would let him in free. Then, in 1967, when Neville was a 26-year-old stevedore, his singing took him from the docks to the top of the charts with the achingly sweet ballad “Tell It like It Is.” Since then, his distinctive tenor has enriched the music that he and his three brothers make as the highly acclaimed New Orleans-flavored band The Neville Brothers, whose popularity expanded during the 1980s with such albums as Fiyo on the Bayou (1981) and Yellow Moon (...

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Macy Gray: Outlandish, outrageous and utterly original

The High Priestess of Freak is looking suspiciously like a Volvo Driving Soccer Mom. Dressed in a denim shirt, track pants and running shoes, with only a white, fun-fur cowboy hat hinting at her outlandish style, Macy Gray arrives at a studio in Burbank, California for a rehearsal with her seven-piece band. She’s late and her group has already run through most her repertoire. But the singer doesn’t seem the least bit concerned. Instead, Gray plonks herself down on a couch, curls her long, lanky frame up at one end of it and hides beneath the wide brim of her hat, nodding occasionally along to the music. She seems bored or at least tired—which would be entirely understandable, given that she’...

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Drew Gonsalves: Calypso's Crown Prince

On a wintery night at Toronto’s plush Koerner Hall, inside the city’s stately Royal Conservatory of Music, two generations of calypso stars are busy heating up the audience. Onstage in the foreground is the reigning queen, Trinidad & Tobago’s Calypso Rose. Just behind her is the crown prince, Drew Gonsalves, whose Canadian band Kobo Town has opened the show and is now backing the headliner. As the cheeky Rose sings and shimmies through her set to the crowd’s delight, the bearded, bespectacled, guitar-strumming Gonsalves is visibly beaming: he co-wrote and arranged many of the songs Rose is performing, all taken from her award-winning comeback album, Far From Home. And now he and the sept...

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Music Feature: Leon Redbone - The Cult of Redbone

For more than 25 years, Leon Redbone has been conjuring up the past with his Roaring Twenties show tunes and turn-of-the-century minstrel ditties. Wearing his trademark fedora and Groucho Marx moustache, he became a fixture on TV’s Saturday Night Live  and The Tonight Show  with Johnny Carson during the 1970s and ‘80s, when he attracted legions of fans and supporters, from Bonnie Raitt and Maria Muldaur to Tom Waits and Dr. John.  Another admirer, Bob Dylan, once told  Rolling Stone  magazine that if he ever formed his own record label, Leon Redbone would be his first signing. Now Dylan has complimented him again: several songs on Dylan’s latest album, the fine, back...

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Music Feature: Annie Lennox - The First Lady

When I first met her, she spoke in a whisper, protecting the gold-plated vocal cords that had made Eurythmics one of the top musical acts on the planet. Annie Lennox was staying in a quiet residential neighborhood near West Hollywood, while she and Eurythmic Dave Stewart rehearsed for the band’s Revenge tour. It was the summer of ’86 and Lennox looked every bit the striking pop icon, one whose theatrical, gender-bending and diva-vamping appearances had transformed the pop landscape. Dressed in a pink satin blouse and a brightly colored plaid suit, a variation on her native Scottish tartan, she spoke at length about music, image and Eurythmics’ battle for artistic control. Fast forward more t...

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Music Feature: John Legend - Mr. Legend Comes to Town

It’s a muggy day and John Legend is trying his best to stay cool. The gifted American soul singer is in a Toronto Baptist church for a photo shoot and it’s proving to be one serious sweat-fest. Between costume changes and impromptu performances on an electric piano, Legend towels off and stations himself next to an industrial-sized electric fan. He doesn’t mind being a clothes horse, especially when the wardrobe’s supplied by Hugo Boss, but the wool trousers and vest are almost unbearably hot. Still, it’s all in a day’s work for the award-winning artist, who’s busy promoting his upcoming sophomore album. Sitting shirtless, looking handsome and buff, the 27-year-old Legend spoke about his chi...

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Ian Tyson - Cowboy Troubadour

The auditorium was a sea of cowboy hats in a variety of styles—High Sierra, Ridgetop and Cattleman. The ranchers, cowhands and wives were assembled last month in a convention centre in northern Nevada for a tribute to the 19th-century American western artist Charles Russell. But the first performer to step onstage was not an American--it was Canada’s Ian Tyson. With his white cowboy hat tipped at a rakish angle and a white kerchief tied flamboyantly around his neck, Tyson fit right in. Carrying an acoustic guitar and accompanied by his band, the Chinook Arch Riders, the Albertan told the audience, It’s great to be back in Elko--feels just like home.” And he meant it. It was the fourth year t...

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