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.

Feature Article: Cowboy Junkies take the indie route

It's nearly impossible to imagine Margo Timmins as a bad-tempered diva. The angel-voiced singer of Canada's Cowboy Junkies has always been a point of calm in the stormy world of rock 'n' roll, a soothing balm amid so much angst, rage and excess. But three years ago, even the ever-gracious Timmins began to lose her cool. The Junkies had just released their eighth album, Miles from Our Home, and she and her bandmates felt it wasn't getting the marketing support it deserved from its U.S. label, Geffen Records. During a flight to Los Angeles, Timmins finally expressed her festering frustration to her brother Michael, the band's guitarist and songwriter. "I was ready to quit," Margo recalls. "Dea...

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Feature Article: Queen - We Will Rock You

What a difference a few decades make. When Queen first came to prominence in the early 1970s, the British band was panned for its bombastic blend of glam rock and heavy metal posturing. The five-word dismissal by Village Voice critic Robert Christgau of Queen II  (“Wimpoid royaloid heavoid android void.”) was typical at the time. Fast forward to the early ’80s and Queen, led by flamboyant frontman Freddie Mercury, is performing in Latin American soccer stadiums to rock’s largest audiences. A decade later, after Mercury’s AIDS-related death, the band gets a commercial boost when “Bohemian Rhapsody” is featured in the movie hit Wayne’s World. Now, the belated coronation is complete, and Q...

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Feature Article: John Prine - Fair & Square

Chicago is the cradle of modern blues, the place where Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf urbanized and electrified the music of the Mississippi Delta. But, during the ’70s, the windy city also gave rise to two of the finest singer-songwriters that America has ever produced: John Prine and Steve Goodman. Like bookends in a vast library of American roots music, Prine and Goodman shared stages and a gift for wry, witty and often poignant compositions. Between them, they wrote hundreds of country, bluegrass, folk and rock ’n’ roll songs, many of which are now considered standards and covered by others: Jimmy Buffett recorded Goodman’s politically incisive “Banana Republics” and Willie Nelson made Go...

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Feature Article: Live Aid - Reliving Rock's Biggest Benefit

In rock history, July 13, 1985 will be forever known as “the day that music changed the world.” On that day, Live Aid broadcast 16-hour, all-star packed concerts from two continents to an audience of 1.5 billion—raising more than $140 million for African famine relief in the process. This, at the height of the so-called “Me Decade,” was no small feat. The money went directly to Ethiopia, providing food and saving the lives of thousands who would have otherwise starved to death in refugee camps. Besides the massive humanitarian gesture, Live Aid remains memorable for some truly transcendent musical performances, including a young U2’s emotionally-charged rendition of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” an...

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Feature Article: Daniel Lanois' shining pedal steel sound

“I have wandered far and wide,” Daniel Lanois sings on the title track to his latest album, “all the way from Paris to Mexico.” The nomadic movements of Canada’s most acclaimed producer are the stuff of legend. After leaving Hamilton, Ont. in the early 1980s to work with U2 in a Dublin castle, Lanois has made a habit out of recording in unusual and far-flung settings: from a dairy barn in Somerset, England to a former porn theatre in southern California. For 10 years, he conducted much of his production work in an ancient, sprawling mansion in New Orleans. Even then, he championed the idea of portable studios and often took equipment with him on the road. Now, Lanois has returned from a year...

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The Beautiful Sadness of Lhasa

She ran away to join the circus. Although she’d been signed to prestigious Atlantic Records and was being touted as an Edith Piaf for the new millennium, Lhasa de Sela turned her back on the music business. Ultimately, the runaway success of her first album, La Llorona, a stunning collection of stylized Mexican ballads and European gypsy tunes all sung in Spanish, proved to be too much for her. “I needed to get away from it for a while,” explains de Sela. “I’d been touring constantly for two years and getting offers to do these amazing gigs all over the world.  But I got badly burnt out and started experiencing these intense feelings of anxiety. I just finally had to say no to everythin...

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Feature Article: Brad Roberts - Crash Test Dude

Brad Roberts, the Crash Test dude, is no dummy. Although he’s a Grinch who hates Christmas, can’t stomach turkey and is practically Scrooge-like in his refusal to buy presents for people or accept gifts from others, he knows that Christmas music is too good a thing to pass up. And what better way to use The Voice—that infamous basso-profundo instrument of his—than to have it reverberate in all of its woofer-shredding glory on centuries-old hymns and carols? But Roberts, once dubbed “Professor of Irony at the School of Postmodernism,” didn’t stop there. He gave some of his favorite seasonal songs the sort of oddball twist that made Crash Test Dummies such a worldwide phenomenon. The result is...

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Interview: Liam Gallagher and Oasis

Oasis is either the best, balls-to-the-wall rock ’n’ roll band of the last decade or the worst case in recent memory of media notoriety trumping musical talent. Blame the group itself for these wildly divergent views. While Oasis has been often capable of crafting crowd-pleasing, stadium-size rock anthems, the battling Gallagher brothers have also undermined their artistic credibility with binges, brawls and generally boorish behavior. Liam, in particular, has earned his yobbo stripes through fits of arrogance, cussing like a dockyard worker and talking shite, to use one of his own favorite expressions.     With the release this month of the two-disc, career-summarizing Stop t...

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Feature Article: Teen Idols and the fast track to fame

Some people call me a teenage idol/Some people say they envy me/I guess they got no way of knowing/How lonesome I can be   “Teenage Idol” by Ricky Nelson     Justin Timberlake knows all too well what Ricky Nelson was singing about. From his days as a 12-year-old Mouseketeer on TV’s Mickey Mouse Club through his teenage years as a member of the superstar boy band ’NSync, Timberlake experienced pop fame even before he learned how to shave. Handling female-fan adulation and media attention came as naturally to him as smiling or pursing his perfectly bee-stung lips. But the transition from ’NSync teen idol to solo star at 22 hasn’t been quite so easy. First there was his famo...

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Feature Article: A vital and vibrant beat - African music in Canada

Nadine McNulty remembers well the day that K’naan appeared at Toronto’s Afrofest. The year was 2000 and McNulty, as artistic director, had booked the then-unknown Somali-Canadian rapper to appear in the afternoon on the main stage at the popular outdoor festival. Rain showers failed to dampen the crowd’s enthusiasm for K’naan, who performed with just one backup vocalist and a tape playback. Recalls McNulty: “It was drizzling and here was this young guy just kicking it in front of this sea of umbrellas. It’s amazing to see how he’s now taken the world by storm.”K’naan, this year’s Juno Award winner for Songwriter and Artist of the Year, is a major Canadian star and international crossover act...

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