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.

Gordon Lightfoot: The Canadian bard wrote the tunes for a nation's identity

More than any other singer-songwriter, Gordon Lightfoot personified Canada. His robust songs about winter nights, morning rain, being bound for Alberta and sailing on Ontario’s Georgian Bay came closest to expressing for many Canadians the essence of life in the Great White North. Historical epics stood alongside romantic ballads. Author Pierre Berton once said that Lightfoot’s “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” conveyed as much about the building of the national railway as his own best-selling book on the subject. When Lightfoot died Monday evening at the age of 84, leaving a vast legacy of more than 500 songs, Canada lost a masterful composer, a distinctive vocalist and one of its ...
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Ian and Sylvia's Great Speckled Bird

In February 1968, Ian and Sylvia made a pilgrimage to Music City, home of the Grand Ol’ Opry, to record their Nashville album with session cats like Fred Carter, Jerry Reed and Harold Bradley. The Byrds hadn’t yet arrived to make their Sweetheart of the Rodeo album and it would be a full year before Bob Dylan showed up to record Nashville Skyline. After years of being overlooked, Ian and Sylvia’s Nashville is now finally recognized as the first pop-country crossover album. Both it and the subsequent Full Circle paved the way for the duo’s landmark country-rock album, Great Speckled Bird, recorded in Nashville with Todd Rundgren as producer. “...
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Ecological Rock: Pop Musicians Sing Out to Save the Planet

It resembled the historic Live Aid concert of 1985: a global jukebox featuring some of the world's top musicians performing for a cause. And like the original world benefit for African famine relief, the event was broadcast to an audience expected in advance to number one billion viewers in more than 100 countries.Last Saturday's multinational concert, titled Our Common Future, also reflected the new activism in rock music by focusing on an urgent global issue: the environment. The performers included Elton John in Edinburgh, Diana Ross in London, Herbie Hancock and John Denver in New York City, Midnight Oil in Sydney, Sting in Rio de Janeiro, along with artists in Los Angeles, Norway, Tokyo...
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Mariposa Folk Festival - 60 years ago

Sixty years ago this week, an estimated 5,000 people flooded into tiny Orillia, Ontario to attend the first Mariposa Folk Festival. Here is an excerpt from Before the Gold Rush about that historic inaugural event: Sitting in neatly arranged rows of canvas chairs, a buttoned-down crowd of 2,000 watched the inaugural Mariposa unfold one August weekend in 1961. The audience, mostly university students from Toronto, had travelled to Orillia on the shores of Lake Couchiching to hear an all-Canadian line-up headed by Sylvia Fricker and Ian Tyson, whoʼd also donated his artistic skills to create the stylized orange sun that dominated the festivalʼs poster. On the opening Friday night, fol...
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Lightfoot, the Hawk and the Rolls-Royce

By the mid-1960s, Gordon Lightfoot was spending more and more time drinking and hanging out with Ian Tyson and Ronnie Hawkins. Bar crawls on Yonge Street weren’t always possible, since the three would often be working. But Hawkins, who pretty much had the run of Le Coq d’Or, kept the place open and made sure the club’s go-go dancers stuck around so he and his buddies could trade songs and party with the girls long after closing. Lightfoot had even written a wistful lament about one of the dancers, “Go Go Round,” which became a hit record for him in early 1967 and was ultimately featured on his album The Way I Feel. Friendship with Hawkins led Lightfoot to write another song. It all stem...
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