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.
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Fran's Restaurants - Would you like some music with your banquet burger?

For over 80 years, Fran’s restaurants have enjoyed a warm and cozy relationship with Toronto. Like the comfort food in which they specialize, the chain of family-style eateries won fans with their affordable, unpretentious offerings, from bottomless cups of coffee and belly-busting all-day breakfasts to the world’s first banquet burger, a burger served with bacon and cheese. Fran’s restaurants were the brainchild of Francis “Fran” Deck, who shuffled here from Buffalo in 1940. He opened his first restaurant the following year—a diner at 21 St. Clair Avenue West that originally had just 10 seats. His second location, at 20 College Street, opened in 1950, and quickly became popular with Eaton’s...
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Jackie Mittoo - Reggae's Keyboard King

Born on this day, March 3, in 1948, Jackie Mittoo can be rightly called the godfather of reggae music in Canada. When he emigrated to Toronto in 1969, Jackie was already a major star in Jamaica, having been a founding member of the ground-breaking Skatalites and a composer-arranger whose inspired keyboard work on countless Studio One recordings helped Jamaican music evolve from ska to rocksteady. Some say the gifted performer was the inventor of reggae itself.  After landing in Toronto, Jackie quickly began introducing audiences to a bubbling, keyboard-driven sound that came to be called reggae—earning himself widespread media attention and national airplay. Meanwhile, he recorded and t...
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JoJo Bennett - Reggae trailblazer

JoJo Bennett was a Jamaican orphan who found his calling when a teacher handed him a horn. Excelling on the trumpet, he grew to become a successful touring musician, songwriter and recording artist. In Canada, he added award-winning bandleader and owner of a recording studio and record label to his accomplishments. But he never forgot his roots, also starting his own music school along the way. Mr. Bennett, who died on Aug. 3 at the age of 81, may have been best known as the charismatic, dreadlocked figure in celebrated Canadian pop-reggae band the Sattalites. But after his passing, those close to him remembered a wise, modest man they affectionately called “Guru” and “Teach.” “Jo was a beau...
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Music Feature: Adrian Miller - Canada's King of Ska

Toronto loves ska music, the Jamaican-born style that’s a lot like reggae played at 78 rpm. Witness the large number of local outfits—including King Apparatus, Skaface, Hopping Penguins and One—playing that speedy, syncopated sound. Meanwhile, British groups like the Specials, Madness and English Beat have always enjoyed a huge following in this city. Last month’s Skavoovee show, featuring members of those bands plus veterans the Skatalites, drew over 1,400 devotees alone. Further proof of Toronto’s love affair with ska can be found at Harbourfront Centre’s massive New Year’s Eve celebrations tomorrow night. Headlining the bash is singer Adrian Miller, Canada’s own king of ska. And...
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Liner Notes: Adrian Miller – Rude Boy on the Bus

For some people, ska music died with the passing of Britain’s two-tone movement in the 1980s. But they only knew it as a post-punk dance craze anyway. As Jamaica’s peppy precursor to reggae, pioneered by legends like Jackie Mittoo, Don Drummond and Prince Buster, ska has a long and vibrant history whose influence still reverberates today.

In England, the ska banner was first held high by Desmond Dekker, a Jamaican singer whose songs “007 (Shanty Town)” and the classic “The Israelites” sent syncopated shock waves across radioland in the 1970s. By the end of the decade, ska was bubbling up big time in Old Blighty, with two-toners The Specials and The English Beat opening for the likes of Elvis Costello and The Clash.

Into those heady days stepped Adrian Miller, Mr. Rude Boy himself, a young Jamaican who found England’s music scene totally inspiring. “The whole climate was more experimental than what was going on back home,” recalls Miller. “There were older musicians like Saxa and Rico, who had first started doing ska back in Jamaica, playing with young groups like The Beat and The Specials. It was an amazing time.”

 

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