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: Beatlemania Toronto Style

The Beatles changed the world in countless ways, but they also dramatically changed Toronto over three consecutive years of performances (1964 to 1966) at Maple Leaf Gardens. Almost overnight, the city was hit with a cultural shift of seismic proportions: Boys grew Beatle-bangs, girls pinned photos of John, Paul, George and Ringo on their walls and parents worried about the sanity of their teenaged children. Canada’s folk darlings, Ian & Sylvia, had ruled up to that point, but as the male half of that duo, Ian Tyson, remembers, “the minute the Beatles arrived, it was over – well and truly over.” The folk boom slowed, as every kid on the block rushed to form rock bands. Toronto’s music sc...

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Music Feature: Ay Caramba! - Music in Cuba

Students practice the guaguancó, one of the most complex of all Afro-Cuban rhythms

Behind a dilapidated storefront in central Havana, an ancient ritual is under way. An old black man, sitting in a crumbling shell of a room, instructs four initiates in the art of traditional Yoruba drumming. Beneath the glare of a dangling light bulb, Elpidio Acea barely seems up to the task. Wiry and wizened, he looks like he’d have trouble keeping a heartbeat, let alone a tricky West African rhythm. But striking two cigar-shaped sticks together, he taps out the offbeat pattern that signs the drums to begin. His students, all young women, respond with a sudden flurry of beats. Today’s lesson is the guaguancó, one of the most complex of all Afro-Cuban rhythms. And two of the students can’t ...

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Feature Article: Canada's Country Music Pioneeers

Country music has its roots in the southern United States. But just as the blues came up the Mississippi on trains and steamboats, country music traveled north on the airwaves to find a welcome home above the 49th parallel. Country has a long and vibrant history in Canada, from the honky-tonk classics of Hank Snow in the 1950s to the chart-topping country-pop hits of Shania Twain, the biggest-selling female artist of all time, in the ’90s. And Canadian artists continue to make their mark, both in Nashville and their native land, where country music appeals to an ever-growing demographic—from diehards in cowboy boots driving pickup trucks to closet fans wearing business suits on Bay Street.&n...

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Feature Article: QuiQue Escamilla's Mexican fusion

It’s a chilly March night in Toronto during a brutal winter seemingly without end. But inside the Lula Lounge, the city’s home of Latin, jazz and world music, it’s a tropical heat wave as Mexican roots star QuiQue Escamilla is performing his fiery blend of ranchera, mariachi, huapango, blues rock and reggae. Launching his excellent debut album, 500 Years of Night, Escamilla is joined by an equally diverse set of musical friends. Bluesman Paul Reddick plays harp on “Canción Mixteca,” giving the Mexican folksong a powerful, haunting feel not heard in Ry Cooder’s version on Paris, Texas. Belle Starr’s Stephanie Cadman provides stirring Celtic fiddle and step dancing on “Huapango del Tequila.” A...

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Feature Article: Souljazz Orchestra and the Inner Fire

Listening to the Souljazz Orchestra is like to taking a rhythm-crazed, horn-drenched trip across the planet, hopping from Latin salsa and Caribbean funk to African beats and jazz from east and west. For a dozen years, the tropically inspired, Ottawa-based band has crisscrossed Europe and North America, introducing its exotic musical mosaic to enthusiastic audiences and critical acclaim. This summer is no different, as the group—hot on the heels of its excellent sixth album, Inner Fire—continues to blaze a trail at festivals on both continents. Souljazz leader Pierre Chrétien says the six-piece ensemble also hopes to reach South America and Africa for the first time this year. That Souljazz h...

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Cover Story: Gordon Lightfoot - On Songwriting

On an unseasonably warm Thanksgiving, Gordon Lightfoot is in an uncharacteristically reflective mood, sipping coffee and looking back on a career that has produced every kind of song imaginable: historical epics, romantic ballads, sea shanties, country ditties, folk-style protests and bluesy “toe-tappers,” to use Lightfoot’s quaint term for his uptempo numbers. Many became hits; many more are considered iconic, as quintessentially Canadian as a Group of Seven painting or Alice Munro short story. To say that he’s been prolific is like saying the CN Tower looms over Toronto. Sitting in the kitchen of his sprawling home in North York’s exclusive Bridle Path neighborhood, the 75-year-old legend ...

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Feature Article: A Tribe Called Red

Ian Campeau will never forget the first Electric Pow Wow night. It was 2008 and he and fellow aboriginal DJ Bear Witness had the idea to host a club event in Ottawa similar to ones held for the Korean and East Indian communities. “We wanted to throw a party that was culturally specific to the First Nations people,” recalls Campeau, aka DJ NDN. “We started adding pow wow vocal and drumming samples to electronic dance music and people went crazy. It was obvious this was a big thing was missing in the community.” Campeau and Bear Witness then teamed up with Dan General, aka DJ Shub, to form A Tribe Called Red and their Electric Pow Wow nights became even bigger events. Initially, their music wa...

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Feature Article: The Sadies and the Good stuff

Dallas and Travis Good have worked with Neil Young, author Margaret Atwood, Randy Bachman, Buffy Sainte-Marie and actor Gordon Pinsent. But it was another Canadian icon—one with whom they’ve yet to collaborate—who offered some crucial wisdom. It was 1996, when their band the Sadies was getting started, and Dallas’ and Travis’ father, Bruce, of bluegrass heroes the Good Brothers, was celebrating his 50th birthday at Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern. Into the club walks Gordon Lightfoot, who’d had the senior Goods open for him during the 1970s. “Afterwards,” Travis recalls, “Lightfoot turned to us and says, ‘The only advice I’ll give you is do your own songs.’ We took heed and started getting rid of...

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Feature Article: Kobo Town and the roots of calypso

Drew Gonsalves laughs about how he had to leave Trinidad to discover the rich calypso tradition of his birthplace. As a teenager, he was far more interested in rock and heavy metal music than the songs of Roaring Lion or the Mighty Sparrow. The legendary Lord Kitchener even lived up the street from his family home in Diego Martin, a suburb of Port-of-Spain, but he remained unimpressed. “I was very typical of a middle-class Trinidadian boy in that I had a taste for all things foreign,” admits Gonsalves, “which is something that (novelist) V.S. Naipaul wrote so scathingly about in the 1960s. Calypso was always in the air, but I just wasn’t interested.” That all changed when Gonsalves’ mother, ...

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Feature Article: k.d. lang - Canadian Music Hall of Fame Inductee

She arrived like a chinook in the dead of winter. When k.d. lang first blew out of Alberta in the mid-1980s, her look, personality and voice seemed to be exactly what everyone was hankering for: theatricality, irreverence and authenticity. There was mischief in her subversion of Nashville stereotypes, but there was no mistaking her true love of country music—nor her pure, unvarnished vocal talent. Having conquered country, lang did the same thing with pop music, establishing a 30-year career that has earned the highest accolades and awards. “Her voice is pretty flawless,” notes fellow Albertan Jann Arden. “She can sing anything and it’s always heartfelt, emotive and believable.” Other vocali...

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