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Old 05-23-2019, 04:35 PM   #51
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Default Re: HOT DOCS-Lightfoot documentary - interviews/photos/articles-Apr.-2019


On his way to the second-floor space of Early Morning Productions, the Yonge Street office where all of his business affairs are looked after, Gordon Lightfoot would pass a homeless man in the foyer of the building. After giving the man $20 one day, every time thereafter he felt compelled to give him at least the same amount. “I started high,” Lightfoot has explained, “and I just had to continue with it.”

So it is with him, his whole career. Lightfoot started high and everybody expected him to keep up the pace. People – friends, fans, family members, record labels and lovers – took pieces of him and wanted more. A shy, fair-haired boy from Orillia, Ont., an eager-to-please Lightfoot didn’t like to say no. Write us an anthem, Gordon, something about railways. Give us an encore, play us a song, shoot me a loan, would you? Hands were out, all the time. They took his girlfriend, even – the jealousy of Sundown was not baseless.

The pressure got to him. “I was under contract to a record company and I wanted to produce, and that’s what I did.” Lightfoot told Vanity Fair in 2016. “I made sacrifices. The isolation of it all managed to destroy a couple of my [marriages].”

Driven and conflicted by expectations, insecurities, loyalties and immense ambition, he broke down eventually. (And did so well before the abdominal aneurysm that nearly killed him in 2002.) A Canadian Club enthusiast, Lightfoot heckled an audience member at London’s Dominion Theatre in 1981, before walking off the stage altogether. Divorces and drunk-driving happened. Worst of all, after his hit-making heyday, Lightfoot began making bad music.
The singer-songwriter, now 80 years old and sober since the first Trudeau prime minister, is the subject of a new documentary, Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind. Named after one of his signature songs, the title alludes to his complexity and, according to one of the film’s directors, his impenetrability. “There’s no easy answers with him,” says Martha Kehoe, who made the film with fellow Torontonian Joan Tosoni. “He just isn’t prepared in that moment, with the camera on him, to do any kind of self-mining.”

The biodoc’s telling early scene has Lightfoot and his current and third wife, Kim Hasse, watching an old clip of him singing (That’s What You Get) For Lovin’ Me. We see Lightfoot wincing at the song’s blatant misogyny, before telling the directors to turn the thing off. “I guess I don’t like who I am,” he says, in a rare moment of introspection.

“It’s not a free ride being Gordon Lightfoot,” Kehoe told The Globe and Mail. “You have regrets. You’ve done stuff. You’ve screwed people over. You’ve put yourself first. You’ve believed your own fame. He doesn’t want to articulate it in every way that that is true, but if you spend time with him, it’s all there, somewhere.”

He spoke about some of those regrets when I visited him in his airy mansion in the city’s tony Bridle Path neighbourhood. In his small wood-panelled study and songwriter space, a gaunt but willing Lightfoot was comfortably surrounded by 12-string Gibson guitars, Fender amplifiers and cassette recorders as old as his last hit.

The Globe and Mail: Tell me about (That’s What You Get) For Lovin’ Me.

Lightfoot: It’s a song about unrequited love. I didn’t understand what the word chauvinism meant when I wrote it. I was married at the time. It could have been offensive, but my wife, Brita, was European. She understood what poetic licence was, I suppose.

Globe: Would you write a song like that today?

Lightfoot: Probably not. I would take the brutality out. You don’t want to create emotional trauma to people who are close to you. You have to be careful what you say when you’re writing a song. It’s the songwriter’s curse.

Globe: The song was covered by Johnny Cash and Peter, Paul and Mary. Is that the ultimate compliment, for a songwriter, to have one’s work recorded by others?

Lightfoot: Yes. I think you could say so. I still ask the question “why?” though.

Globe: You wrote good songs, that’s why. Why would you ask such a thing?

Lightfoot: Because I still question my own ability. I have my whole life, and I continue to do so.

Globe: Is that healthy?

Lightfoot: I don’t know if it helps or not. Did you say “helping” or did you say “healthy?”

Globe: Healthy.

Lightfoot: I don’t consider myself to be a genius, by any stretch of the imagination. It bothers me to be referred to as such.

In the documentary, Lightfoot is not specifically referred to as a genius, though Burton Cummings does say the Canadian Railroad Trilogy songwriter should be part of this country’s history-book curriculum. Canada chronicler Pierre Berton never rhymed “Gitche Gumee” with “the skies of November turn gloomy," and it was Lightfoot, not Tom Thomson, who wrote A Painter Passing Through.

When the lights were raised following the film’s first public screening at TIFF Lightbox, an older gentleman stood up and raised his walking cane in the air. “Let’s hear it for Canada’s one and only, Gordon Lightfoot,” he so much as hip-hip-hooray-ed.

Seated on one side of me at the screening was Bernie Finkelstein, something of a Canadian music legend himself. I asked him if he knew who the man with the cane was. “I don’t,” he replied. “But I don’t like him. I can’t stand cheerleaders.”

Finkelstein, who started True North Records in 1969 and who still manages Bruce Cockburn, used to promote shows with Lightfoot’s long-time friend and booking agent, Bernie Fiedler. Asked if Lightfoot was a Canadian icon under siege with expectations early in his career, Finkelstein agreed. “Canadians want their artists to succeed in the United States,” Finkelstein answered. “It’s important to them.”
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Old 05-23-2019, 04:45 PM   #52
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Default Re: HOT DOCS-Lightfoot documentary - interviews/photos/articles-Apr.-2019

Where Joni Mitchell and Neil Young left the country early in their career, Lightfoot stayed in Canada. He became the home team. Mitchell wrote Help Me, Young wrote Helpless, and Captain Canada, the canoe-tripping troubadour, wrote Carefree Highway and record-setting alimony cheques.

But when asked if the demands asked of Lightfoot were unreasonable, Finkelstein waved off the premise. “I’m not sure being a millionaire songwriter was ever all that hard,” he said. “These artists get a lot of phone calls, but I don’t think any of them are going to say it’s upsetting. The only complaints from them I ever heard backstage were about the cold-cut platters.”

Seated on the other side of me at the screening was Bruce Good, a musician who has known Lightfoot since the late and 1960s and who had a more sympathetic understanding of the pressures Lightfoot faced and still faces. “He realized people wanted a piece of him,” said Good, featured in the film, speaking about how Lightfoot’s wistful 1968 toe-tapper Did She Mention My Name makes his eyes well up to this day.

As part of the seminal Canadian folk-rock group the Good Brothers, Good has faced some of the pressures that Lightfoot does, though on a much smaller scale. “If I’m walking through a crowd of people at a concert, I put the blinders on, because I know if I make eye contact, they’re going to ask me something or want something. I can hardly imagine what it’s like to be Gordon Lightfoot.”

What it is to like be Lightfoot is to be asked of constantly. “Here comes mister cool along the walk of fame, I was in demand, always in control,” Lightfoot sang on 1998′s autobiographical single A Painter Passing Through. “The world was in my hands, my touch had turned to gold.”

Back in the 1970s, when the Sometimes When We Touch star Dan Hill needed a Learjet in the middle of the night in Moncton, he called Lightfoot.

After an indie-rock band recorded Lightfoot’s Great Lakes standard The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, one of the band’s musicians got upset when Lightfoot refused to recognize the cover version and accused him of lifting the song’s melody.

In 1966, with Canada’s centenary approaching, CBC needed an instant folk classic that captured the glory of the country’s spike-driven origins. Fuelled by coffee, cigarettes and a fat commission, Lightfoot wrote Canadian Railroad Trilogy in three days.

That same year, at a summer post-show party in Toronto, the star Canadian folkie Ian Tyson approached his friend Lightfoot at four in the morning. Earlier in the evening, Lightfoot had a introduced a new song to a crowd at the Riverboat coffee house.

“It’s a good one, Gordon,” Tyson said to Lightfoot at the after-party. “What it’s called?” Informed the song was Go My Way, Tyson made a request. I’d like to hear it again. Why don’t you go and get your old guitar and play it for me?”

A sleep-deprived Lightfoot acquiesced. There was no end to the requests made upon him.

A young John Macfarlane, who would go on to serve as editor of Toronto Life and the Walrus, was a music writer for The Globe in the 1960s. He was at the party where Lightfoot played for Tyson, and included the story about it in a Globe profile, one of the first major Lightfoot features ever published. “It struck me as an important Canadian moment,” Macfarlane recalled recently.

In Macfarlane’s interview with Lightfoot, the 27-year-old songwriter described himself as a “cosmopolitan hick” and a “country boy, doin’ the best I can.” As if he were a rube – or worse, a John Denver.

“I think that was a glib way of shutting down any further discussion,” said Macfarlane, who back then almost rented an apartment in the three-story home Lightfoot shared with his wife, before the couple wisely decided against sharing a house with a journalist. “He was learning how to deal with incursions into his psyche, which were not welcome. He was a working man, and his work was music.”

Indeed, sit-downs these days with Lightfoot rarely result in much reflection. However, when asked about new songs, the songwriter (who hasn’t put an album of fresh material since 2004’s Harmony) gleefully pops out of his chair to retrieve the lyric sheets to a couple of unrecorded songs he’s been working on for a new album. One of them is called The Laughter We Seek. The other one has the line, “I’ve got one too many women in my life.”

Lightfoot crows about the latter song: “How’s that for an idea, eh? Now, how would I come up with something like that?”

When it is suggested that a song about one woman too many would seem to be in the vein of For Lovin’ Me, the kind which he said he’d never write again, Lightfoot is quick to protest. “No, it’s not!” he says quickly. “That was a hurtful song. This is not hurtful. This is whimsy, you see?”

After the interview, we stand in his vaulted front hall, where some of the cast fixtures look out of place. Turns out Lightfoot had salvaged the pieces from the Rosedale mansion where he once played host to Bob Dylan, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and all the others. “I didn’t want to leave that house," Lightfoot laments. So, why did he? “It was my former wife’s idea, to get away from downtown distractions.”

When asked if he’ll play the first concert at Massey Hall when the venue, currently undergoing extensive renovations, re-opens next year, Lightfoot eyes brighten. “I don’t want to hog the stage,” he says. “But if they want me to do it, I’ll be there.”

Lightfoot obliges, as he does.
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Old 05-23-2019, 09:06 PM   #53
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Default Re: HOT DOCS-Lightfoot documentary - interviews/photos/articles-Apr.-2019

Review: Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind is a candid, revealing music doc
Even though the film offers the requisite career arc checklist, the Canadian singer/songwriter offers lots of insights into his music and life


If you’re worried Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind is the kind of hagiography all too common in music docs, that danger is thwarted before the opening credits. Watching old 1960s footage of himself playing his early hit For Lovin’ Me, the Canadian icon looks down, shuts his eyes and cringes.

“I was so naive,” he says of the ramblin’ man country kiss-off song, which was covered by everyone from Johnny Cash to Elvis.

“I don’t think I knew what chauvinism was.”

While the film could easily indulge in baby boomer nostalgia, Lightfoot doesn’t let it. Now 80, he’s gregarious and reflective, grateful for his accomplishments without overlooking his faults. Considering the depth of his career – which, with songs like The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald and the Canadian Railroad Trilogy, defined a ruggedly sensitive version of Canadiana – that makes him almost the perfect subject.
He even sometimes speaks in sound bites (and he even calls them sound bites).

It’s rare that Lightfoot provides this type of access, and it gives writer/directors Martha Kehoe and Joan Tosoni a lot of rich material to work with.

There are other talking heads, too – everyone from Sarah McLachlan, Anne Murray and Steve Earle to, for some reason, Alec Baldwin – but it’s Lightfoot himself who provides the most insight.

That helps temper the requisite career arc checklist, which is pretty much unavoidable in this genre. He’s an affable tour guide, from his hometown of Orillia (even providing a recording of himself singing in church when he was an eight-year-old soprano) to the 60s folk revival scene in Yorkville, which is intercut with scenes of the bougie Yorkville of today.

He’s happy to talk about individual songs, too, revealing a laborious, somewhat isolated approach to writing. And he frankly discusses his 80s alcoholism, without glorifying it in the context of his legendarily excessive, celebrity-filled Rosedale mansion parties.

There’s plenty of exceptional archival material, including old and new performance footage – you can see Lightfoot behind the scenes at the final pre-renovation show at Massey Hall last year – and lots of shots of Toronto’s neon past. (There are even a few parallels made between Lightfoot and Drake – both were heavily associated with Toronto in their respective heydays.)

For all of Lightfoot’s introspection, he often downplays his actual genius – you use your imagination and make sure it rhymes, he says. And the main reason he’s still as prolific a performer as ever, he claims, is because he has six children (not to mention grandchildren) for whom he still feels responsible.

But he admits to feeling some regret about his life, especially for the trauma he’s caused women throughout his relationships. Rather than go into specifics, he hints that it’s there in the lyrics of his songs – that, if you want to really get below the surface into his deeper thoughts and emotions, that’s where you have to look.

For the most part, the documentary follows his lead, choosing not to dig too far into any salacious details, even though they provide the weight behind Lightfoot’s self-reflection.

Even if it’s not all spelled out, you don’t have to read his mind – there are plenty of his songs to listen to.
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Old 05-23-2019, 09:09 PM   #54
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Default Re: HOT DOCS-Lightfoot documentary - interviews/photos/articles-Apr.-2019

If You Could Read My Mind offers an entertaining, if shallow, look at Gordon Lightfoot
Oddly missing from the documentary is anything on Lightfoot’s near death in 2002.

What’s left to say about Gordon Lightfoot, the Early Morning Rain balladeer and stoic Canadian who has weathered decades of examination? Plenty, but a new biodoc on him doesn’t dig too deep into the darker crevices of the man’s life.

Instead, we get an entertaining but superficial and laudatory overview of one of his country’s greatest singer-songwriters. Archival film of a young Lightfoot crooning about trains at the long-gone Riverboat Coffee House will thrill the old folkies. Pressed into talking-head service, Burton Cummings, Steve Earle and, yes, actor Alec Baldwin testify on Lightfoot’s behalf. Just Murray McLauchlan hints at his fellow songster’s gloom.

Of Lightfoot’s former wives and lovers, only onetime girlfriend Cathy Smith is heard from – and she’s subtly vilified. Oddly missing is anything on Lightfoot’s near death in 2002. Instead there’s footage of the Captain Canada troubadour canoeing, in a film that is not interested in tipping any boats.
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Old 05-23-2019, 09:13 PM   #55
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Default Re: HOT DOCS-Lightfoot documentary - interviews/photos/articles-Apr.-2019

4.5 out of 10
Andrew Parker
A laudatory, unchallenging, boilerplate pat-on-the-back for one of Canada’s biggest musical icons, Martha Kehoe and Joan Tosoni’s documentary Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind is the kind of fan service that I find dubious, but I assuredly understand the appeal of it. A lightweight retelling of the life and times of bestselling and beloved singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot, If You Could Read My Mind only pays passing lip service to many of the darker, less inviting aspects of its titular subject’s life in favour of focusing positively on all his hits, friendships, and accomplishments throughout the years. What emerges is a fine enough bullet point recitation of facts that are recounted jovially by the documentary’s titular subject, but it’s as deep as an unfolded servillette.

Produced in part by the CBC, Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind is the kind of documentary about a famous person that can be made practically by buying a kit off the shelf. It opens with thirty or so minutes talking about some of Lightfoot’s biggest hits (including the numerous songs that would go on to have arguably bigger lives as covers performed by other artists), followed by another third of the film that talks about his early years playing coffee houses in Toronto’s trendy Yorkville neighbourhood and New York’s even hipper Greenwich Village, and then spends a final thirty minutes finally getting around to the harder personal details of Lightfoot’s life. Talking heads that know Lightfoot well pop up here and there to add a bit of context, but they don’t tell the viewer anything that the artist doesn’t already freely offer up about himself. It’s a popular documentary arrangement that’s as reliable as one of Lightfoot’s musically rudimentary, but lyrically poetic folk rock ditties.

“Man, weren’t the sixties a great time for music?,” the film seems to ask like it’s trying desperately to sell a K-Tel compilation of Freedom Rock tunes. “Also, did you know that Gordon Lightfoot is one of Canada’s most famous and influential singer-songwriters?”

To these questions, it’s hard for me not to respond with, “Yes. I knew that already. So why aren’t you telling me more about his importance and life outside the public eye instead of telling me what everyone already knows while coddling his already well cultivated public image in the process?” Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind isn’t so much a serious documentary as it is a calculated, only vaguely forthcoming charm offensive.

Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind is aimed squarely at his legions of fans (especially his Canadian ones, with Kehoe and Tosoni basically painting him as the only singer-songwriter who ever mattered in the country, without ever once comparing him to anyone else in the process) and not for anyone who might be interested in how complex and contradictory he is as a person. Lightfoot is more than willing to open up about his alcoholism and mentions in the film’s closing moments that he’s caused a great deal of pain to some of the women in his life, but anyone wanting to know more about his numerous children, divorces, or failed professional and romantic relationships won’t have any greater insight as to why none of that worked out for him. To hear it straight from the horse’s mouth, Lightfoot just had a terrible drinking problem and there was nothing else that cast darkness over his life. Life isn’t that simple for a successful musician who was operating at the level that he was, but Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind asks viewers to think that it was. And other than an opening moment where Lightfoot talks about the one song that’s too painful to sing anymore and the insinuation that his hit track “Sundown” was a thinly veiled, but laughably hypocritical jab at an ex, anyone hoping to learn more about his actual works will be left equally in the dark.

Kehoe and Tosoni have made a film that’s so softball that they might as well be lobbing Lightfoot nerf balls encased in bubble wrap. While the film’s subject appears eager, jovial, or likable at all times (especially during a somewhat embarrassing moment where he prattles on about his love for Drake while driving down Toronto’s Yonge Street like the world’s least cool grandfather), Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind is a film that’s constantly on edge. It’s hard to tell is Kehor and Tosoni don’t want to ask Lightfoot about anything too triggering or if he rebuffed them when they tried.

Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind might be a film about an enduring Canadian music icon, but it’s also the story of a man (or possibly those around him) who are extremely protective of his overall legacy. Anything that could be seen as portraying such an icon in a negative light – like his relationship to Cathy Smith, the woman who said she injected John Belushi with the speedball that killed him, or infamous shows in the 70s that ended with the singer storming off after a drunken tantrum – are given a time limit to be talked about and examined. These moments of darkness are paved over quickly in favour of getting back to the hit parade as soon as possible, leaving many dangling questions in the process. It can’t overlook these moments, but Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind isn’t entirely up front with the viewer about how little the subject wants to talk about them.

I’m not saying that Gordon Lightfoot isn’t an iconic musical artist (even if most of his songs, like many folk artists of the period, manage to sound the same in spite of their ambitious, sometimes delightfully strange lyrical content) or that every documentary about a famous person needs to dwell in the darkness. What I’m saying is that Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind is a feature length promo clip for an established artist who doesn’t need any more promo clips to pad out his resume. It’s a documentary so stock and uninspired in its aims that one could easily do their own research about Lightfoot and uncover a more richly rewarding story than the one the subject and filmmakers are providing for viewers. It’s a movie about an icon, and everyone involved here will do everything in their power to make sure you don’t forget it. What the film doesn’t want you to know is that Gordon Lightfoot is more complicated than he seems.

Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind opens at The Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema in Toronto on Friday, May 24, 2019. It opens at The Vic in Victoria on May 31, PAC Film House in St. Catharines on June 5, at the Hyland in London, The Loft in Cobourg, Bytowne in Ottawa, Playhouse in Hamilton, Princess in Waterloo, and Indie Cinema in Sudbury on June 7, at The Globe in Calgary on June 14, and at the Roxy Theatres in Saskatoon and Regina on June 21.
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Old 05-24-2019, 05:19 AM   #56
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Default Re: HOT DOCS-Lightfoot documentary - interviews/photos/articles-Apr.-2019

I don't expect every review of the documentary to be totally "glowing" in its tone, but the last one was so unnecessarily nasty, eh? Sounds like a case of sour grapes to me!

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