June 18, 1999
Interview with a Lightfoot Fan, take from YahooMusic
Tripping the Lightfoot Fantastic
Gordon Lightfoot flips through the back pages of his
We'll always remember him for paying tribute to a sinking ship that
wasn't the Titanic, but "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald"
aside, Gordon Lightfoot has survived four decades of popular music and
at sixty is still an internationally recognized singer-songwriter. For
evidence of his prolific career, one need look no further than the
Gordon Lightfoot Songbook, a four-CD boxed set containing eighty-eight
tracks (including sixteen previously unreleased) spanning his entire,
nineteen-album career, from struggling, obscure Canadian folksinger to
seasoned star. Elevators and doctors' offices the world over will
forever pump out "If You Could Read My Mind,"
"Sundown" and "Carefree Highway," but there's much
more where that came from. Gordon pauses one afternoon to reflect.
Has the boxed set stirred up many memories?
Lot of changes. All the peaks and valleys of the personal life come
into focus. I haven't got a problem with it. I got to listen to
everything. I blocked out five days and listened to everything. I made
notes as I went. I found some really interesting demos and I said 'My
God, the fans are going to love this.' It's really not too bad at all.
It's really entertaining.
What was the weirdest, least Gordon Lightfoot-like song you included?
I got a neat one like that -- "Always on the Bright Side."
Guy talking about his woman. It's an interesting arrangement. It's
quite different from anything else I ever wrote ... it's quite
I noticed there was no "Black Day in July" (Lightfoot's song
about the 1968 race riots following Martin Luther King's
I don't like to open up old memories best left undisturbed. I don't
like to be a s--- disturber. I don't do that one. It's not one of my
favorite songs anyway to play live. I go by what goes over best with
the crowd and they don't request that one too much anymore. No, I
don't like it.
Do you have a favorite song?
I look forward to playing everything. I like "In My
Fashion." It's got a good beat. I work with my show all the time.
I've got about fifty-five songs in my repertoire and I've got to get
that peeled down to twenty-eight every night and sometimes less.
Certain songs must be done and you fill in the spaces with rotating
How do you explain your longevity in such a fickle business?
Well, I really like doing it. I like to play live, maybe too much so.
That's my science, which means staying well rehearsed and staying in
physical condition. I have a program and I've been on it for years and
it helps the breathing in the lungs and I feel like doing it. We do
about forty shows a year all across North America and that's a nice
perk to have and I don't want to lose it, so that's what motivates me.
Any advice to aspiring singer-songwriters?
How about 'Keep up the good work'? Just writing the damn things is the
first problem. It seems insurmountable until they come.
Do the songs still come to you?
I have a collection of thoughts and ideas I can refer to, but my
timing is all changed now. It ain't like it used to be. I used to have
more time. Now I'm parenting two young children. I wrote myself right
through my Warner Brothers contract so I'm not under any duress, so I
haven't thought about it in nine months. I don't feel compelled. It's
nice. The anthology has fallen into place. I may not start writing
until I get settled next year. If I have one more in me I'll do it
whether it sells or not.
Unlike a lot of folk singers, you wrote from the beginning of your
I knew I had to write my own material right at the outset. I was
singing "Rags to Riches" by Tony Bennett in assembly. My
sister would play piano. I remember saying, 'I bet I could write a
song,' so when I was seventeen I did write my first one.
'The Hula Hoop.' It was a topical song. You have to give me some
credit. It was humorous.
Ever play it?
No, they'll have to stretch that one out of me.