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-   -   LIGHTFOOT by Nicholas Jennings - Sept.2017 (http://www.corfid.com/vbb//showthread.php?t=28489)

charlene 03-21-2017 07:43 AM

LIGHTFOOT by Nicholas Jennings - Sept.2017
Toronto music historian, Nicholas Jennings has written some wonderful music related books - this is his latest-coming in September:


3pennies 03-21-2017 09:36 AM

Re: LIGHTFOOT by Nicholas Jennings - Sept.2017
At the Englewood, NJ show on April 13th last year I was able to speak to Gordon afterward.

I asked "your friend Robbie Robertson is publishing his autobiography this fall, any chance someday you will do the same?"

He looked at Kim and then looked at me and said something like "yes, it's being worked on."

Could this be what he was referring to?

Andy T. 03-22-2017 05:22 PM

Re: LIGHTFOOT by Nicholas Jennings - Sept.2017

Originally Posted by 3pennies (Post 190137)
He looked at Kim and then looked at me and said something like "yes, it's being worked on."

Could this be what he was referring to?

I hope so. And when it comes out, I'll be waiting to get my copy in the post. There's no way I would not consider buying such a book that Gord willingly contributed to.

And as the kind of long term fan who often does not even need to hear the songs any more, I know them so well, I don't really expect to learn much new from it. While Gord has been famously reluctant to oblige interviewers over the decades, the interviews he did grant are consistent. I know much about his workman-like approach to writing songs, and the fact some friggin' good tunes came out of that process. Yes, his bandmates and producers also influenced the arrangement of those songs, but Gord hired those people for a reason! And the songs would not exist if he hadn't locked himself into empty spaces and ground them out. :clap:

charlene 05-09-2017 12:08 PM

Re: LIGHTFOOT by Nicholas Jennings - Sept.2017
The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, May 9, 2017 10:35AM EDT

TORONTO - A biography on Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot is due this fall.
Penguin Canada says "Lightfoot," by music journalist Nicholas Jennings, will be published under the Viking Canada imprint on Sept. 26.

The publishing house says Jennings "has had a long-standing relationship" with Lightfoot for nearly two decades.

The biography will include input from family, friends, musical greats and industry insiders.
Penguin says the book will further "our understanding of how an inspired songwriter works" and "delight Lightfoot fans as well as attract new ones."

charlene 05-09-2017 03:48 PM

Re: LIGHTFOOT by Nicholas Jennings - Sept.2017



The definitive biography of Canada’s most beloved singer-songwriter, a legendary musician who helped define the folk-pop era.

From the tender ballad of “Beautiful” to the historical lament of “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” to the plaintive political plea of “Black Day in July,” Gordon Lightfoot’s songs have inspired and enchanted fans for more than fifty years. Beloved by a devoted Canadian audience, Lightfoot’s work has been performed and admired by musicians from around the world, including Joni Mitchell, Nico, Ronnie Hawkins and Robbie Robertson. Nobel Prize-winner Bob Dylan once listed “Sundown” and “If You Could Read My Mind” among his favourite Lightfoot songs, before adding, “I can’t think of any I don’t like.” In addition to winning nearly every Canadian music award, in 2012, Lightfoot was inducted into the American Songwriters Hall of Fame alongside such luminaries as Leonard Cohen, Kris Kristoffersen, and Dylan; it honoured Lightfoot as a singer who helped “define the folk-pop sound of the 1960s and ’70s.”

Biographer Nick Jennings has had unprecedented access to the notoriously reticent musician. He chronicles Lightfoot’s early efforts–his school principal recorded a disc of “Gordie” singing at age 9–to his beginnings as a songwriter to his heyday in concert halls around the globe. Possessed of a strong work ethic and a perfectionist bent, Lightfoot brought discipline to his craft and performances. But he partied just as hard in that rock ‘n’ roll era, and alcoholism began to take its toll. Lightfoot toured relentlessly and his personal life suffered as marriages and relationships unravelled. At 63, he suffered an aortic aneurysm that nearly killed him and kept him in a coma for six weeks. But his amazing stamina helped him survive and miraculously saw him on stage once again, resuming his touring and yearly sold-out show at Massey Hall.

Jennings paints an unforgettable portrait of an artist in the making, set against the turbulent era of sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Voices from the music industry mix with loyal fans to illustrate how the boy from small-town Ontario became the legendary bard of Canada. Stuffed with anecdotes and the singer’s own reminisences, Lightfoot is an exhilarating read.


NICHOLAS JENNINGS is one of Canada’s most respected music journalists. He was the music critic and feature writer for Maclean’s magazine from 1980 to 2000. In addition, he has written for Saturday Night, Billboard,Words & Music, TV Guide, Inside Entertainment… More about Nicholas Jennings


Hardcover | $30.00
Published by Viking
Sep 26, 2017 | 304 Pages | 6 x 9 | ISBN 9780735232556

paskatefan 05-10-2017 05:46 AM

Re: LIGHTFOOT by Nicholas Jennings - Sept.2017
Oh, boy! We'll HAVE to get this one! Thanks for the heads up!


charlene 05-10-2017 10:54 AM

Re: LIGHTFOOT by Nicholas Jennings - Sept.2017
AMAZON link: https://www.amazon.com/Lightfoot-Nic.../dp/0735232555

Martyn Miles 05-11-2017 12:46 AM

GL biography on sale in Sep. 2017
Does anyone know if this will be available in the United Kingdom ?

I assume Amazon UK is the best place to start.

Thanks, in anticipation.

Martyn Miles
OX28 3HH

MOB: 0741 2277575

charlene 05-11-2017 08:00 PM

Re: LIGHTFOOT by Nicholas Jennings - Sept.2017
I would thing Amazon UK would be selling it as well.. I will ask Nicholas if he knows and what date if they are..

Martyn Miles 05-11-2017 11:18 PM

Re: LIGHTFOOT by Nicholas Jennings - Sept.2017

Originally Posted by charlene (Post 190249)
I would thing Amazon UK would be selling it as well.. I will ask Nicholas if he knows and what date if they are..

Thanks, Charlene.
Pre-ordered at AMAZON U.K.


charlene 05-12-2017 09:49 AM

Re: LIGHTFOOT by Nicholas Jennings - Sept.2017
AMAZON uk - https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lightfoot-N...holas+jennings

Jim Nasium 05-14-2017 05:42 AM

Re: LIGHTFOOT by Nicholas Jennings - Sept.2017
Have ordered my copy from amazon.uk for 23.11 of my british pounds. Delivery date to be advised.

Islandgirl1 08-27-2017 04:59 AM

Re: LIGHTFOOT by Nicholas Jennings - Sept.2017
I was browsing on Amazon tonight & glanced at their suggestion list for me.
When I came to book section there it was under biographies. I came right here & did a search to see if Char posted (as I expected), but not before I made my preorder @ Amazon(USA). Read the synopsis - can't wait to receive it on my Kindle app on September 27th. I haven't been here @ Corfid for some time. Will be coming around here more often. Miss you guys. Been a lot in my life over the past few years. I last saw GL @ the CBNY Theatre @ Westbury (Long Island, NY) this past May-I thoroughly enjoyed it.

BILLW 08-30-2017 09:41 AM

Re: LIGHTFOOT by Nicholas Jennings - Sept.2017

Originally Posted by Islandgirl1 (Post 190478)
I haven't been here @ Corfid for some time. Will be coming around here more often. Miss you guys.

That is good to hear. We need to do something to attract old members back and new members to sign up. Maybe there is a way to export the member list to the Facebook page but we would probably need the corfid boss man for that project and he doesn't show up very often.

Bill :)

Auburn Annie 09-04-2017 02:40 AM

Re: LIGHTFOOT by Nicholas Jennings - Sept.2017

Originally Posted by BILLW (Post 190479)
That is good to hear. We need to do something to attract old members back and new members to sign up. Maybe there is a way to export the member list to the Facebook page but we would probably need the corfid boss man for that project and he doesn't show up very often.

Bill :)

Still here, listening in occasionally. Last year was rough. My husband fell off a ladder in May and broke his skull in three places, damaged the hearing in his left ear, and fractured his back. As for me, I had a very bad reaction to Bactrim, putting me in the hospital for four days and leaving me with a swallowing disorder and severe peripheral neuropathy all over. Fortunately Rich has largely recovered except for the hearing and some residual TBI issues. My swallowing returned to normal after a few months but the neuropathy persists to some degree. And one of my siblings was diagnosed in May with renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer), stage 4. On the plus side we now have 4 grandchildren : Patrick, James, Natalie and Charlotte. Keeps us busy. Don't get to many concerts these days but am seeing Sir Paul McCartney at the Syracuse Dome in about 3 weeks.

BILLW 09-05-2017 07:51 AM

Re: LIGHTFOOT by Nicholas Jennings - Sept.2017
Good to hear from you Annie. Enjoy the show and I hope you get some relief from the trials and tribulations. Years ago I used to ask for a roll call now and then but I'm afraid many of the old members have drifted away.

Bill :)

imported_Next_Saturday 09-15-2017 02:27 PM

Lightfoot.ca review of "Lightfoot" by Jennings

by Nicholas Jennings
A comprehensive Lightfoot biography.
Published by Viking - September 19, 2017
ISBN-10: 0735232555
ISBN-13: 978-0735232556


Lightfoot.ca Review - Sept. 12, 2017

Stating at the outset that the bar has been set very low by preceding attempts at chronicling Lightfoot's life and career may be very unfair to Mr. Jennings, it still can be said that in light of the very low threshold laid out before him to overcome, Nichlos Jennings' Lightfoot instantly stakes claim to the gold standard of Lightfoot biogarphies and most certainly would have done so even if the previous attempts had been more substantial in nature.

Jennings' interviews of Lightfoot and others close to him, obviously well thought out and plotted by the author in advance, have yielded meticulous detail never before unearthed in the vast volumes of newspaper and magazine articles that came before this book and which often rehashed many of the same well worn anecdotes. The author for the most part, particularly in the early years, avoids falling into that trap. It seems obvious to me that the author made himself very familiar with much of what has been out there in print over the past 5 decades, not an inconsequential achievement in and of itself, which allows him to follow a path uniquely his own in the telling of the Lightfoot story. Jennings has brought fresh detail and perspective to the arc of Lightfoot's life and musical career that suffuse the subject matter with a renewed energy and focus.

Highlights for me were the many engaging tales of Lightfoot's youth in and around Orillia, which illuminate why Lightfoot so often returns to the many aspects of nature within the framework of his songs, sometimes directly, or even in romantic songs utilizing nature as their backdrop, Shadows being a prime example. Very interesting too, is how Jennings sheds new light on the relationship between Lightfoot and Albert Grossman. Lightfoot being signed to the Grossman stable of artists was pivotal in Lightfoot's ultimate rise, but very little in the past has emerged that has added much in the way of nuance to the conflicted feelings between the two, but Jennings remedies that shortcoming with many stories that reveal a little more of Grossman's personality and his affection and respect for Gord, even after they parted ways. On the other end of the scale, we discover the inner workings of an almost fateful management agreement Lightfoot flirted entering into with Hollywood heavyweight, Jerry Weintraub.

Needless to say, Jennings chronicles the songs, the albums, the hits, the misses, all interspersed with colour from the stage, the backstage, the studio, the Lear jet - and all places in between. Events unfold chronologically, whether dealing with matters of a musical, business or personal nature. So you always know where you are in the grand timeline. The only exception being the introduction which finds us in 1975 Rosedale with the Rolling Thunder crew all under Gord's roof, while the host and Bob Dylan, guitars in hand are trading songs in an upstairs room .

The obvious minefield every author has to navigate when writing about Lightfoot, is in dealing with Gordon's personal life. Jennings to my mind avoids the condescending and moralizing attitudes that so many others have resorted to in their rush to sensationalize Lightfoot's personal struggles. This time we find a very balanced approach to this subject matter - be it the drinking, the failed relationships, not always being there for his children - Jennings does not sugarcoat any of this, but uses a deft hand and avoids being judgmental and gives Lightfoot full credit for how he turned all those issues around to finally become a consummate family man, all the while balancing an overwhelmingly busy music career.

While saying that all things pertaining to Lightfoot's music has become my life's work would be stating the case too strongly. However since first encountering Lightfoot's music as a 13 year old in 1968, it has certainly developed into a serious avenue of interest. With the dawn of the internet for the masses in the early 90's, much of at least the bare bones outline of what Jennings covers here has been out there in the public domain, yet his unique ability to compile all the disparate threads scattered throughout the ether into a very compelling narrative which can be cradled in the palm of your hands, is a masterful accomplishment and in point of fact, a service to Lightfoot's public to say the very least. His exhaustive interviews, often confirm, clarify and in some cases dispel many aspects of the Lightfoot story beforehand taken for granted. Are there factual errors to be found? Well, to my eye there are several, but too few and inconsequential to take away from the overall impact of the book.

So now that the new Jennings' biography has entered the Lightfoot canon of literature, we can rest in the knowledge that Lightfoot's career has finally been given the proper thoughtful, extensive and authoritative treatment, long overdue and richly deserved, yet until now has remained on the missing list. However we're still waiting for that tantalizingly elusive Lightfoot autobiography, or absent that, an insider's view of the Lightfoot musical odyssey, shedding light on the creative process from the inside looking out, as written by someone who was a first hand witness to many of these events as they unfolded. But that is merely my personal wish list, which should in no way diminish from this new and indispensible book. Nicholas Jennings' Lightfoot is a must read for the legions of followers of the legendary singer-songwriter's music the world over.

- Wayne Francis

Andy T. 09-18-2017 09:54 AM

Re: Lightfoot.ca review of "Lightfoot" by Jennings
Good to know that Wayne got an advance copy. Heck... he friggin' deserves it!

And this has been in my Amazon Shopping Cart for months now. This review reminded me I needed to pull the trigger and actually order the bloomin' thing. Done.

I never got the previous bio, having heard ungood things about it. I did my own research back in the pre-internet days at the local collage library. And have read the numerous online interviews over the last 20-ish years. I'm sure Wayne did the same, so with this review I'm happy to order this title.

charlene 09-20-2017 02:07 PM

Re: LIGHTFOOT by Nicholas Jennings - Sept.2017
Click on link then "LOOK INSIDE" on the bottom right of the photo to read several pages of the book - http://penguinrandomhouse.ca/books/5...#9780143199205

Andy T. 09-20-2017 04:08 PM

Re: LIGHTFOOT by Nicholas Jennings - Sept.2017
Not for me. I'd rather wait and have the book in my hands.

jj 09-22-2017 11:54 AM

Re: LIGHTFOOT by Nicholas Jennings - Sept.2017
i too have used the Wayne offerings from the Lightfoot website and his and others' (Richard Harrison, etc) injections to the original discussion boards (over 20 years ago now, wow) as a 'Bio type' of resource over the decades

imported_Next_Saturday 09-22-2017 01:42 PM

Re: LIGHTFOOT by Nicholas Jennings - Sept.2017
Review of the book from former manager Al Mair:


"My life has been quite complicated."

Gordon Lightfoot 2017

Over his entire career, Gordon Lightfoot chose to avoid any public knowledge about his personal life. Small parts of it have been played out in public...his first divorce, his million-dollar record contract, his drinking, his drunk driving charge, Cathy Smith and his almost career-ending health problems. Books have been written about him without his cooperation and he doesn't acknowledge reading them. Author Nick Jennings spent decades pursuing the opportunity to present Lightfoot's biography with his agreement, which was given - then taken away - and given again. This is the definitive book on Gordon Lightfoot's life and lengthy career.

Growing up in the small town of Orillia, Lightfoot's father, Gordon Sr., a child of the Great Depression, was a quiet and private man, while mother Jessie was always supportive of Lightfoot's musical interests. Early on, Gordon Jr. left Orillia to attend Westlake College of Modern Music in Hollywood. There he learned the tools of songwriting that would lead to the core of his career: personal songs, yet songs that the general public can relate to, be they about lost love, true love, cheating or human nature.

He returned to Canada and landed a spot on Tommy Hunter's CBC Television show...as a singing dancer. Dancing was not his forté, to put it mildly, but the exposure to television was excellent training for later on. He met guitarist Laurice Milton "Red" Shea, who recorded and toured with him for decades. He also joined the burgeoning Yorkville music scene and began to concentrate on performing and writing. Ian and Sylvia were the first to record one of his songs. Starting at Steele's Tavern on Yonge Street's "music row," sandwiched between A&A Records and Sam the Record Man, he began to build a loyal fan base. Steele Basil paid him a salary of $219 a week and food to take back to his basement apartment which he shared with his young Swedish wife, Brita.

Bernie Fielder, owner of the Yorkville club The Riverboat Coffee House, convinced Lightfoot to perform at his venue instead of Steele's, and soon he was filling the 'Boat twice a night for a week. After some 'Boat dates, with the support of Johnny Bassett Jr., heir to The Toronto Telegram newspaper and CFTO Television, Lightfoot performed his first storied Massey Hall concert. He has continued this practice and has played Massey Hall more than 150 times, more than any other artist except The Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

On the recording side, he signed a contract with Warner Brothers in Los Angeles, which led to the release of only one single, "I'm Not Sayin'." His then-manager Albert Grossman switched him to United Artists. He recorded five albums for UA, ending with his first live release Sunday Concert. All five albums surpassed 100,000 sales in Canada.

Unfortunately, there was no gold record certification system here at the time, or all his UA records would have been certified platinum. He then signed with Reprise Records, a Warner Bros. label originally started by Frank Sinatra.

A press conference in his office, which Lightfoot did not attend, led to the announcement of his million-dollar deal. His first release under the new contract was called Sit Down Young Stranger. Again, it soared to platinum in Canada, but US sales were disappointing. Seven months after its release, a Seattle disc jockey started playing "If You Could Read My Mind," and Reprise issued it as a single. It became a massive hit worldwide, and the song was covered by literally hundreds of artists including Barbra Streisand, Johnny Cash and other luminaries, as well as other songs in his catalogue, particularly "Early Morning Rain." Lightfoot is most proud that Elvis recorded it.

During this time, his marriage to Brita started to fall apart. He had become somewhat of a ladies' man, hanging out with Rompin' Ronnie Hawkins and Ian Tyson. He also met Cathy Smith, a beautiful, but wanton, young lady. This on-and-off relationship would last for many years and be the inspiration for many of his later songs. Brita left him, taking their two children Fred and Ingrid. She moved them to France. This action led to a court case where Brita was awarded their home, a sum of money and support.

He hated songwriting, but his strict upbringing gave him the discipline to write when he had a recording session in the near future. He often used bennies to assist in the process as well as Canadian Club Whisky and caffeine. Choosing a location with nothing but a coffeemaker, a music stand or recording device and a chair, he would write for 36 hours straight and then crash. His on-and-off relationship with Ms. Smith was the inspiration for many of his songs, including "Sundown." He also had relationships with many other women, some he married, some he did not. He has six children by four different women. As he told me recently on the street, "I've got a lot of family to take care of."

Lightfoot recorded a number of successful albums, particularly Sundown, which led to him having the #1 position on the Billboard Hot 100 singles and retail album charts.

Many years ago, he agreed with his band to limit performing to about 70 nights a year. He kept this up for decades until he collapsed on stage at the Orillia Opera House. He was airlifted to a hospital in Hamilton where he remained in an induced coma for many days. He survived, got back into physical shape, and renewed his touring schedule. He continues to do so until today, with four nights at Massey Hall coming up in November. He gave up alcohol decades ago and goes to the gym almost every day when he is home in Toronto. I suspect he will continue this until he dies onstage.

The only missing chapter would be about those who perhaps took advantage of him...Grossman, Artie Mogull, (lawyer) Al Stewart and others. Perhaps he just chose not to go there.

Nicholas Jennings' 'Lightfoot' (Penguin Random House, 336pages) is on general release next Tuesday, Sept. 26. Copies can be purchased online here.

Alexander Mair worked with Lightfoot promoting all his UA recordings as Vice President of the Compo Company, now Universal Music Canada, from 1964 to 1968. At Lightfoot's request, he left Compo to set up Early Morning Productions Limited, an umbrella company for all Lightfoot's activities, including setting up and running his publishing companies. This relationship lasted from 1968 to 1976. In 1974, Mair launched Attic Records with Warner promo wiz Tom Williams. Lightfoot was not involved in Attic.

Dave, Melbourne,Australia 09-24-2017 12:24 PM

Re: LIGHTFOOT by Nicholas Jennings - Sept.2017
I have just visited Dymocks Books and ordered the hardback version via the USA for Aust$65. (Apparently there is no paperback version available for importing to Australia in the next 6 months at least.) It will take around 5 days to arrive and when it does, I'll be claiming it as the world's furthest-travelled copy of the book.

imported_Next_Saturday 09-26-2017 02:16 PM

Nicholas Jennings and Lightfoot


From Nic Jennings Facebook :

"Today is the day. Many years in the works. Months of digging in newspaper and magazine archives. Countless hours interviewing, even more transcribing. Endless scanning of photographs and documents. And then the writing and rewriting, trying to make sense of the material and shape it into a readable story that hopefully does justice to a complicated man, his extraordinary life and rich body of work. It's been daunting, but I'm thrilled that my biography of Gordon Lightfoot is now out in the world, available wherever good books are sold as they say. Ultimately, I'm proud to be associated with a great artist whose music I've known and loved since childhood."

imported_Next_Saturday 09-28-2017 11:12 AM

Re: Nicholas Jennings and Lightfoot
Interview with Nicholas Jennings:

formerlylavender 09-28-2017 10:21 PM

Re: Nicholas Jennings and Lightfoot
I enjoyed this. Thanks for posting!

paskatefan 09-29-2017 05:10 AM

Re: Nicholas Jennings and Lightfoot
What a great interview! Can't wait to receive our copy of the book - any day now!


Jim Nasium 09-29-2017 08:07 AM

Re: Nicholas Jennings and Lightfoot
Ordered the book from amazon.UK in May, got email yesterday, delivery date between Oct 25 and Nov 14. I assume it is now out in The States and Canada.

charlene 09-29-2017 11:00 AM

Re: LIGHTFOOT by Nicholas Jennings - Sept.2017
thanks for posting those! I got them onto FB yesterday but didn't have time to get on here...

charlene 09-29-2017 11:04 AM

Re: LIGHTFOOT by Nicholas Jennings - Sept.2017
AUDIO: Part 1 of 3 - NEW PHOTO OF The Lightfoot family when Gordy was a wee one..AUDIO at link: part 1 of 3 - interview with Nicholas Jennings and the writing of "LIGHTFOOT".. - Photo of Bev Lightfoot, Gordon Sr., Jessie Lightfoot and wee Gordy..




charlene 09-29-2017 12:07 PM

Re: LIGHTFOOT by Nicholas Jennings - Sept.2017

charlene 09-29-2017 12:26 PM

Re: LIGHTFOOT by Nicholas Jennings - Sept.2017
VIDEO: https://youtu.be/_IYHZoui9O0


hmmm..links don't open to show image... help!

imported_Next_Saturday 09-29-2017 04:46 PM

Re: LIGHTFOOT by Nicholas Jennings - Sept.2017

buzzard 09-30-2017 01:43 AM

Re: LIGHTFOOT by Nicholas Jennings - Sept.2017
These interviews are fantastic!

Very much looking forward to Part 3.

Thanks so much for posting this!


charlene 09-30-2017 10:05 AM

Re: LIGHTFOOT by Nicholas Jennings - Sept.2017
EXCERPT FROM THE NEW BOOK: https://www.thestar.com/entertainmen...ale-party.html

Lightfoot, Dylan and the wild Rosedale party

Read an excerpt from Nicholas Jennings’ new authorized biography of Canadian songwriter Gordon Lightfoot.

Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue — a touring band of sorts — was making its way around the U.S. and Canada in 1975. Likened to a “traveling Woodstock” it featured some of the era’s musical luminaries. When it came to Toronto, Dylan organized the concert for Maple Leaf Gardens. Here’s what happened December 1, 1975 — the night Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and others came to town.

Dylan had given Lightfoot an important slot in the show, right before his own final set. It took a long time for Lightfoot to come out; he was backstage tuning guitars, his usual pre-concert ritual. Baez, acting as emcee, entertained the crowd with her impressions of comedian Lily Tomlin’s best-known characters. Then, when it finally came time, Baez introduced Lightfoot. As he walked onstage, Lightfoot looked every inch the handsome hometown hero, clad in denim with sleeves rolled up, ready to work, the spotlight illuminating his blond curls. He’d started out a decade earlier, playing a small room at Steele’s Tavern, a few blocks away on Yonge Street. Now he had the prime spot at the hottest concert of the decade.

Backed by his usual sidemen, bassist Rick Haynes, guitarist Terry Clements and pedal steel player Pee Wee Charles, Lightfoot launched right into a brand-new song: “Race Among the Ruins.” It was his latest poetic take on a tumultuous romantic life. “The road to love is littered by the bones of other ones,” he sang, “who by the magic of the moment were mysteriously undone.” The audience loved it. Lightfoot’s songs always took listeners on a journey, drawing them into stories rich in emotion and without a trace of artifice. Next up, he sang “The Watchman’s Gone,” one of his many songs steeped in railway imagery. By the time he closed with “Sundown,” his taut tale of sexual jealousy, Lightfoot had everyone cheering wildly. The following night, he added “Cherokee Bend,” about injustices suffered by First Nations people, and finished with “High and Dry,” an upbeat number he liked to call a “toe-tapper.” Meticulously crafted, the songs were nonetheless instantly accessible and sounded entirely natural. With the audience screaming for more, Neuwirth stepped to the mike and urged Lightfoot back. Once again, a simmering “Sundown” enthralled the crowd. Both shows ended with Lightfoot and Mitchell joining tour regulars, friends and family, including Dylan’s mother, Beatty, for a jubilant round of Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.”

The December 1 show broke the four-hour mark. Everyone was ecstatic. Swept up in the euphoria, Lightfoot invited Dylan and the entire cast of more than seventy people back to his place for a party. The Rolling Thunder circus pulled onto Beaumont Road, a quiet cul-de-sac by a ravine in Rosedale. What took place in Lightfoot’s mansion was a rock-and-roll bacchanal. His blue-and-silver Seeburg jukebox was working overtime, pumping out a steady stream of Cream, Zeppelin, Doobies and Flying Burritos. Everyone was either drinking, snorting or inhaling something, and smoke floated freely about the sprawling house — past the grand piano, the slate billiard table and the Tiffany lamps all the way up to the master bedroom, with its Frank Lloyd Wright stained-glass window. The heavy consumption may explain why memories of the event are so fuzzy. Most people think there was one big noisy party; others believe there were two. Some recall one of Lightfoot’s friends, a six-foot-ten banjo player named Tiny, acting as security and greeting Mitchell, McGuinn, Rivera, Ronson and all the others as they arrived.

But almost everyone remembers Dylan’s buddy Neuwirth throwing his leather jacket into Lightfoot’s fireplace and filling the house with thick black clouds. Says Ramblin’ Jack, “Bobby was a very enthusiastic partier. I don’t remember all that transpired at Gord’s, because we drank to excess. But we were told we had quite a lot of fun.” Ronnie Hawkins, another Rolling Thunder addition, certainly recalls the fireplace incident. “Dylan was into drinking carrot juice at the time, and he and Neuwirth got into an argument. . . . Neuwirth just lost it and threw his jacket into the fire. It was like a smoke bomb going off.”

While revelry raged on the main floor, Lightfoot and Dylan were alone upstairs with their guitars, in a parlor room with a leaded bay window and floral wallpaper. Lightfoot had stripped down to a singlet, jeans and sandals. Dylan was still wearing his leather coat and fur hat. They seemed a mismatched couple, a study in contrasts. Here were two songwriters at the top of their games. But neither was comfortable in conversation, despite their friendship and mutual respect. Too guarded, or maybe too competitive. They did, though, share the common language of music. As others partied wildly below, Lightfoot and Dylan quietly traded songs. A recording made that night of Lightfoot playing Dylan’s “Ballad in Plain D” can be heard on the Renaldo and Clara soundtrack. A few photographs captured the historic exchange.

Each of them had started out the same way — alone in a room with a guitar, pencil and pad of paper. The discipline of that hard, solitary work created timeless songs that reached millions. Dylan had become the greatest songwriter of his era. Lightfoot was close behind. Although more workmanlike and straightforward, Lightfoot’s songs had an artful structure and poetic resonance that made them accessible in ways that Dylan’s weren’t. Both were highly prolific and idiosyncratic. After selling out the largest venue in the city, attracting a constellation of music’s brightest stars and hosting a fabulously decadent party, all these two artists wanted to do was retreat to a room and trade songs over acoustic guitars. For Lightfoot, as for Dylan, it was always about the song.

Excerpted from Lightfoot by Nicholas Jennings. Copyright © 2016 Nicholas Jennings. Published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

charlene 09-30-2017 10:18 AM

Re: LIGHTFOOT by Nicholas Jennings - Sept.2017

As you turn the pages of this engaging authorized biography of Canadian music legend Gordon Lightfoot, it becomes obvious why it has taken so long for such a book to appear.

Its publicity-shy subject, the composer of such masterpieces as Early Morning Rain, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald and Canadian Railroad Trilogy, has avoided any consideration of it.

He likely felt burned by the tough 1988 bio Lightfoot: If You Could Read His Mind, by the late Ottawa author and playwright Maynard Collins.

"I’m not worthy," Lightfoot told a Hamilton reporter in 1993, as though concurring with Collins’ clear-eyed treatment of the boozing, womanizing and often violent temper that dogged the singer-songwriter’s reputation in the 1970s.

"I’m humble to the point of feeling inferior most of the time."

Flash forward another 25 years, and Lightfoot — now scarily gaunt and thin of voice at age 78 — is likely tending his legacy.

He has co-operated with Toronto journalist and author Nicholas Jennings on a new life and times. Titled, simply, Lightfoot, it is much more thorough and generous, without ignoring the singer’s warts.

Jennings has done an excellent job of, among other things, teasing out the roots of his old friend’s chronic insecurities.

He traces them back to Lightfoot’s boyhood in Orillia, Ont. — also famous as the setting of satirist Stephen Leacock’s Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town — where small-town Scots-Presbyterian values took a dim view of anyone getting too big for their britches.

He captures the excitement of the Toronto folk scene in the ’60s when Lightfoot, always driven and focused, climbed the greasy pole of success, meanwhile seeking comfort in the bottle.

Alcohol, he felt, helped him write. It also let him enjoy the company of his musical contemporaries, many of whom he found "overwhelming."

Cathy Smith, Lightfoot’s live-in girlfriend for three years in the early ’70s and later notorious for injecting actor John Belushi with his fatal drug overdose, said that Lightfoot drank "more than any man I’d ever known."

By the late 1970s, he was often blitzed onstage. His name was dragged through Canadian papers after police stopped him for impaired driving.
In England in 1981, an audience booed after he insulted them. His hometown Orillia paper carried the headline "Brits Wish Gord Good Riddance."

Chastened and humiliated, he stopped drinking in 1982. He channelled his formidable willpower into a fitness regimen that continues, Jennings insists, to this day.

Jennings relates Lightfoot’s story in chronological order and without much editorializing — the latter something Collins couldn’t resist.

A longtime Maclean’s music writer, Jennings conducted many original interviews, including several with Lightfoot himself. He has also read Lightfoot’s voluminous clipping file, and credits his sources appropriately.

Needless to say, Jennings enumerates Lightfoot’s many triumphs as a songwriter and performer: a 300-plus-title songbook, 10 million albums sold and an artistic reputation up there with the likes of his fellow Canadian greats Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young.

And Lightfoot accomplished all this without leaving Toronto. Popular historian Pierre Berton, author of The Last Spike, once said, "You did more good with your damn song (Canadian Railroad Trilogy) than I did with my entire book on the same subject."

In the U.S., Lightfoot songs have been recorded by the likes of Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand and Johnny Cash. More than 300 acts have covered one song alone, If You Could Read My Mind.

Frank Sinatra changed his mind. "I can’t sing this," he said. "There’s too many words."

Jennings recounts Lightfoot’s passion for environmental issues and his love of wilderness canoeing. He often talks dollars and cents (no tag day needed for Gord) and documents Lightfoot’s health troubles.

In 1972, he dealt with a debilitating bout of Bell’s palsy, a paralysis of the facial muscles. More seriously, in 2002 he suffered an abdominal aortic aneurysm that nearly finished him. He was in an induced coma for six-and-a-half weeks. A smoker all his life, he now battles emphysema, the disease that killed his mother.

Nor does Jennings shy away from Lightfoot’s energetic love life. He has had three wives, numerous live-in girlfriends and has fathered six children.

Married or single, he was seldom alone on the road. He has spent the last 35 years atoning for his irresponsibility as a father and husband.

Lightfoot has known many of the famous musicians of his day, but the one who stands out for Jennings is Bob Dylan.

He opens the book with an anecdote from 1975, when the Bard of Minnesota was in Toronto with his Rolling Thunder Revue. Dylan and friends stopped by Lightfoot’s Rosedale mansion for a raucous party.

Their paths have always crossed. Despite their many artistic differences, Dylan and Lightfoot share a similar social awkwardness, not to mention a love of playing pool and a mutual regard for each other’s songs.

Moreover, Jennings emphasizes, they both live for the stage. Dylan has his Never Ending Tour, and Lightfoot plans to tour until he drops. These days, he takes a few hits from an oxygen tank at intermission.

He will back in Winnipeg at Club Regent on Nov. 3, two weeks after his 79th birthday.

Morley Walker is a retired Free Press arts columnist and books editor.

paskatefan 10-02-2017 05:12 AM

Re: LIGHTFOOT by Nicholas Jennings - Sept.2017
Our copy arrived on Saturday. I started reading it yesterday, and I can't put it down! So far I've read over 200 pages. I learned quite a few things I didn't know from before. Get this book!


Jim Nasium 10-02-2017 11:02 AM

Re: LIGHTFOOT by Nicholas Jennings - Sept.2017
Further to my last post, ref: delivery date of book, now 6th Oct. Have refrained from reading the above excerpts, prefer to wait for book!

New 12 String Mike 10-03-2017 02:49 PM

Re: LIGHTFOOT by Nicholas Jennings - Sept.2017
Hi folks!

I haven't posted for awhile, but I've just finished Jennings' book and thought I'd write up a thought or two about it.

I don't want to post any "spoilers" so I'll just say I throughly enjoyed it and it clarified and connected the dots on several things I'd been curious about. The descriptions about the meanings behind the songs will certainly add to the songs' appreciation by many fans.

That said, as a singer/guitarist myself, I was disappointed that there wasn't just a bit more in the book about Gord's song crafting, musicianship, instrument choices, etc. Granted, musicianship was not the purpose of the book, and it could probably require another book to give the subject its due, but I'd have liked to know a few things that I was hoping the book would cover. Such as, I've never figured out why Lightfoot has always used a capo on his guitars. A paragraph on that subject would have been enough. Oh well...

I encourage very fan to read the book, it will be time well spent.

T.G. 10-04-2017 02:09 PM

Re: LIGHTFOOT by Nicholas Jennings - Sept.2017

Originally Posted by New 12 String Mike (Post 190554)
I was disappointed that there wasn't just a bit more in the book about Gord's song crafting, musicianship, instrument choices, etc. Granted, musicianship was not the purpose of the book, and it could probably require another book to give the subject its due, but I'd have liked to know a few things that I was hoping the book would cover.

That's actually what I proposed to Gordon several years ago when I wrote to him with a book proposal. I thought he might go for avoiding the personal issues and focus on just the music, but I didn't hear anything back. Oh, well.

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