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.

Toronto Songs: Neil Young's Ambulance Blues

Four-to-Go Neil Young (left) with Four to Go's Ken Koblum and Geordie McDonald
Neil Young returned to the city of his birth in 1965, determined to break into Toronto’s flourishing music scene. He’d arrived with his Winnipeg group, the Squires, but their new folk-rock sound fell on deaf ears. Even changing their name to Four to Go failed to make a difference. So Young parted ways with his bandmates and launched himself as a solo folksinger. Before leaving Winnipeg, Young had become enamored of Bob Dylan’s music and taught himself to play “Four Strong Winds,” Ian Tyson’s Canada-referencing response to “Blowin’ in the Wind.” He’d also encountered Joni Mitchell, who was performing at the Fourth Dimension coffeehouse with her husband. After the show, Young went up to Joni, ...
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Toronto Songs: Murray McLauchlan's Down By the Henry Moore

Murray-in-Yorkville Photo by Bart Schoales
 Murray McLauchlan moved downtown and never looked back. Armed with a guitar and a backpack, he ran away from home at the age of 17 and headed straight to Yorkville. He wound up crashing at the Village Corner coffeehouse, sleeping on a mattress in the basement and soaking up the sounds of guitarists like Amos Garrett and Jim McCarthy and folksingers including Al Cromwell and Elyse Weinberg. The Village Corner had been the place where artists like Ian & Sylvia, Gordon Lightfoot, David Wiffen and Bonnie Dobson all got their start. The son of a trade unionist, McLauchlan developed an artistic flair while attending Central Technical School, where he took classes from renowned Canadian p...
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Obituary: Soul singer Jackie Shane

JackieShane-promoshot Photo courtesy of Gerry Miskolczi
Jackie Shane broke all the rules. An American-born, black, transgender woman, Ms. Shane first came to Canada in the conservative early 1960s and won over audiences with her glamorous image and soulful singing. For the next decade, she packed clubs in Ontario and Quebec and landed one memorable song, the slinky, sassy “Any Other Way , ” near the top of the charts. But then Ms. Shane disappeared and erroneous rumours circulated of a possible murder or suicide. For the next 40 years, the mystery grew until word came that the retired performer was living back in her native Nashville. Ms. Shane’s rediscovery resulted in a massive comeback that the former singer never planned – nor actively partic...
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Toronto Songs: Ian Tyson's Marlborough Street Blues

IanTyson-1
When Ian Tyson arrived in Toronto in September 1958, the folk music scene didn’t exist. The coffeehouses hadn’t yet appeared in Yorkville. The city’s bohemian district consisted of a few ramshackle cafés and galleries along a tiny stretch of Gerrard Street, near Bay, that attracted colorful personalities and painters like Harold Town. All of that was about to change with the Folk Boom ignited by the Kingston Trio and its massive hit “Tom Dooley.” Tyson had hitchhiked his way East from the West Coast, where he’d graduated from the Vancouver School of Art. He was 25 years old. His life experience at that point largely amounted to riding bareback in rodeos and playing a little guitar in rockabi...
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Blog Post: Toronto's Music Mural

Blog Post: Toronto's Music Mural
Yesterday, a 22-storey high mural depicting the music history of Toronto’s Yonge Street was announced at a media event on the site of the mural. Two of the legends featured in the wall painting, Ronnie Hawkins and Gordon Lightfoot, were in attendance. Commissioned by the Downtown Yonge Business Improvement Association, the work by artist Adrian Hayles also includes images of Oscar Peterson, Glenn Gould, Jackie Shane, Shirley Matthews, Dianne Brooks and bluesmen B.B. King and Muddy Waters. The mural covers the side of a building on Yonge just south of College. I was a consultant on the project, which will be completed in December 2016, and spoke at the event: As a music journalist and histori...
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