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.

Nick's Picks of 2023

Once again, I look back on a year of music. For me, 2023 was rich in some phenomenal sounds. But much of what I consumed was through live performances, less through studio recordings. The Polaris Music Prize offered plenty of new discoveries, including Debby Friday and her winning Good Luck debut, Aysanabee's Watin and Begonia's Powder Blue. For compilations of the past year, nothing for me can top Written in Their Soul: The Stax Songwriter Demos, a stunning seven-CD set compiled by Cheryl Pawelski of stripped down gems by unsung heroes who wrote the classic songs of Otis Redding, Carla Thomas, Sam & Dave and the Staple Singers. Jason Wilson's Ashara album, ...
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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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Don Cullen: Bohemian Embassy ‘Ambassador’ Nurtured Talents of Fellow Artists

Creative versatility came naturally to Don Cullen. Writer, actor, comedian, producer and impresario, he could apparently do it all. His talents first surfaced at high school, where Mr. Cullen’s flexible physical features and talent for vocal impersonations made him popular with his classmates. “I became the funny kid,” he once recalled, “by capitalizing on the angularity of my frame and the rubbery quality of my face.”  Mr. Cullen took those attributes onto the stage and across the airwaves, voicing more than 1,500 radio programs and appearing in nearly as many theatrical reviews and television shows. He starred in a production of Beyond the Fringe which was performed more tha...
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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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Obituary: Lucille Starr - Queen of Yodels and Yearning Ballads

She was Canada’s consummate country music queen: petite, buxom and with towering hair to match a voice that could scale heartbreaking heights. Beginning in the late 1950s and early ’60s, Lucille Starr was also a trailblazer, singing in both English and her native French while becoming the first Canadian woman to sell one million records and the first to perform at Nashville’s famous Grand Ole Opry. There were many other firsts for the feisty francophone artist, an accomplished yodeller who yodeled Cousin Pearl’s character on TV’s The Beverly Hillbillies. Signed to A&M Records in Los Angeles with Bob Regan, her partner in the Canadian Sweethearts duo, Ms. Starr was simultaneousl...
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