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Old 08-13-2019, 11:59 PM   #1
Join Date: May 2000
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Default WALL STREET JOURNAL article-Aug.13,2019

Gordon Lightfoot Made His Singing Debut Over the P.A. System in Grade School
Before recording hits, the Canadian singer-songwriter composed in the family attic and practiced choir music.

By Marc Myers
Aug. 13, 2019 10:15 am ET
Gordon Lightfoot, 80, is a singer-songwriter with 14 Billboard pop hits, including “If You Could Read My Mind,” “Sundown” and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” He is on tour in the U.S. He spoke with Marc Myers.

One day in 1948, when I was 10, I was summoned to see the school principal. Arriving in his office, I saw a portable machine with blank plastic platters on his desk. He wanted me to record a song of my choosing.

I was in the fourth grade, and everyone knew I could sing. The principal wanted to play the recording over the school’s P.A. system on Parents’ Day a few days later. So I sang “Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral,” an Irish lullaby my parents had taught me. They had me model my voice after Bing Crosby. My record played, and everyone at school was very impressed.

I grew up in Orillia, Ontario, about 80 miles north of Toronto. My mother told me that when I was 3, I sang to myself while falling asleep.

My father, Gordon Sr., managed a commercial laundry and dry-cleaning plant. Starting at age 14, any time I wanted to earn some money, I worked there as a washman and then as a truck driver.

I grew up in a musical household. My mother, Jessie, sang with her three sisters: Aunt Laura, Aunt Babe and Aunt Mary. They formed a vocal group in childhood and sang for the family at Christmastime.

In addition, my grandmother played piano, and so did my older sister, Beverley, who accompanied me. She also accompanied me on organ in church. We were very close.

Our family lived in a small, two-story brick house, with a Gerhard Heintzman upright piano in the front room. My sister and I had our own rooms.

I liked going up to the attic to be alone and think of songs to write. It was an inspiring space but isolating. My first musical hero was Louis Armstrong. In 1956, he was replaced by Elvis Presley. That’s when my father bought me a guitar. I used to do Elvis impersonations. Later, Elvis recorded my songs “Early Morning Rain” and “For Lovin’ Me.”

Gordon Lightfoot’s ‘Sundown’ album, released in 1974 by Reprise Records.
Both of my parents were loving and took an interest in me. Early on, I participated in school sports—football, pole vaulting and basketball. They’d drive me to games and meets. I’m not sure why I bothered. I was only 5-foot-8, but I was competitive.

In the winters, my sister and I skated. My father flattened out our backyard and sprayed it with the hose. Overnight, the surface became a rink.

We belonged to Orillia’s St. Paul’s United Church. The man who ran the junior choir, Ray Williams, had a wonderful voice. He taught me to sing with emotion. He said, “Let it come from deep inside.” To help me along, he introduced me to Handel and Mendelssohn choir pieces. It’s impossible to sing these works and not be emotional.

As a singer, I progressed rapidly and wound up on a local radio station when I was 12. The station’s owner had heard me perform in church and invited me on a show. I sang five songs live.

In 1958, when I was 20, my friend, Buddy Hill, and I moved to Los Angeles to study jazz composition and orchestration at the Westlake College of Music. To pay the rent, I wrote and recorded radio jingles.

Today, my wife, Kim, and I live in Toronto’s North York section. I moved into my five-bedroom house 20 years ago. There isn’t an attic, but it does have a large music room where it’s quiet and I can work.

I’m still crazy about basketball and often write or practice with the Toronto Raptors on and the sound down. Off season, I leave a talk-radio show on with the volume low.

My favorite photo is the one I have of my sister, who passed away in 2017. She was a great gal and had a hell of a sense of humor. She ran my business for 10 years and knew everything that was going on in my life.

Her photo sits framed on my desk. She’s there with a great big smile on her face. She looks as if she’s thinking.

Gordon’s Gets

Most inspiring folk artist growing up: Hank Snow

Favorite Louis Armstrong record: “Basin Street Blues”

Number of touring days: 100 days a year, 80 shows

Daily workout: Fast-walking cardio, weights and stretches. I no longer run.

Favorite meal on the road: Pasta and fresh vegetables

Lesson from father: “Don’t get a swelled head.”

Lesson from Beverley: “Mind your manners."

WSJ-Aug.13,2019 article by char Westbrook, on Flickr

WSJ-pic 2 by char Westbrook, on Flickr

safe_image.php by char Westbrook, on Flickr
charlene is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-14-2019, 12:53 PM   #2
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Default Re: WALL STREET JOURNAL article-Aug.13,2019

Thanks for posting this Char. I saw it in a news feed yesterday but it was behind a paywall/subscription offer.

Love the pictures!
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Old 08-17-2019, 02:45 AM   #3
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Default Re: WALL STREET JOURNAL article-Aug.13,2019

Great pics, indeed!
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Old 11-28-2019, 10:03 PM   #4
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Default Re: WALL STREET JOURNAL article-Aug.13,2019

Gordon Lightfoot by char Westbrook, on Flickr
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