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Old 03-03-2016, 11:26 AM   #1
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Default Flagstaff, Arizona-Mar.5-2016 article

Douglas McDaniel

During the days of the ‘70s when FM radio ruled as the central output for whatever was going on in music, when storytelling Jim Croce had his big bad Leroy Brown, Harry Chapin his cats in a cradle, and James Taylor his fire and rain, Gordon Lightfoot was right alongside them with such hits as “Sundown,” “Rainy Day People,” “Carefee Highway,” “If You Could Read My Mind,” and by far the best maritime disaster song of all time, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” They call it easy listening now, many of those FM radio hits that were ballads, but many of the best, in Lightfoot’s case, were drawn from gut-wrenching heartbreak and a general appetite for tragedy. Basically, some pretty dark stuff.

In a recent telephone interview from his home in Toronto, Canada, Lightfoot, now 77, was almost as good at telling the stories of his most famous songs as he is at singing the songs himself.

For example, he says “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” about the sinking of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald on Lake Superior on Nov. 10, 1975, started out as a song when, a few weeks before the disaster happened, he remembered a melody from childhood.

“It was an Irish dirge I heard when I was 3,” he says of the original melody for the song. “It kind of sprung itself all of the sudden.”

The details for the “Edmund Fitzgerald” were realized for Lightfoot when he read a story in Newsweek magazine about the 29 crew members who were lost during the severe November storm.

“I remembered that night because there was a very strong wind in Toronto, and I was wondering how my sailboat was doing that night,” he says. “After I read the Newsweek article a few weeks later, the melody was already there and I wrote the song.”

Last year was the 40-year anniversary of the tragedy, and Lightfoot has kept in touch with the families of the victims over the years. A year ago he was throwing himself behind a preservation effort for the old church in Detroit referred to in the song. “I had to take care of that,” he says.

Lightfoot and Bob Dylan have had a mutual admiration society for decades, going back to when Lightfoot would occasionally visit Dylan at his songwriting office in New York, after Lightfoot got a management deal with Albert Grossman, who also represented Dylan.

“I can remember watching (Dylan) work on the typewriter,” Lightfoot says. “He was really large for me. He’s the main influence. I got into how he did it. How he got it done.”

He laughed about the week of Woodstock and how there were all of these stories about Dylan performing at the show in upstate New York, while Lightfoot knew all of the time he was at the Isle of Wight festival in England. Lightfoot says he was invited to go to Woodstock, to watch, that is, but he didn’t go. Playing such a gig was discouraged by his manager, Grossman, who didn’t like the idea of his clients playing for free.

“He’d say, ‘Keep it for the concerts, keep your mystique together,’” Lightfoot says.

Lightfoot grew up as a performing child prodigy, singing in public for the first time in the fourth grade, and he became quite used to being in front of audiences by the age of 10. He loved Bing Crosby and songs by the 19th century songwriter Stephen Foster, who wrote “Camptown Ladies,” among other American standards.

“I don’t know if I plagiarized him or not,” he jokes of Foster’s influence.

He got his career start in music in the late 1950s and early 1960s hosting shows featuring country music, first in Canada, then in England on the BBC, and by around 1964 his songs were being recorded by such artists as Elvis Presley, Marty Robbins and Peter, Paul and Mary. His first big American hit was “If You Can Read My Mind” in 1970. From that point on, Lightfoot was a heavyweight on the radio playlists.

“There was always competition,” he says. “There was always the Beatles or David Bowie in your face.”

He says it was during his early years that he’d found a way to write songs: finding solitude by asking people with empty homes or apartments in Toronto if he could go inside and play there for a while. With families, kids, all kinds of people in those coffeehouse folk days of Pete Seeger wannabes around him, it was the best way to get quiet and find the folkways going on in his head.

“I found an empty condo fine. You have to just completely remove yourself from everything,” Lightfoot says. “I had an odd thing about working in empty houses. They (the owners) would go outside and have a smoke, and by the time they were done I’d have a song,” he says.

By the late 1970s Lightfoot was a huge success in Canada and the U.S. with such singles as “Sundown” and “Carefree Highway,” the latter inspired when, on tour in Arizona, he came across a highway sign, literally, “Carefree Highway.” He wrote the two words down and threw the piece of paper into a suitcase, only to discover it later when he was in the spirit to write. The song is purported to be about a carefree life on the road, but Lightfoot loaded it with its main story about loss and longing. Equally edgy, from a relationship-song standpoint, is “Sundown,” about a man suspicious about his lover, a song that cuts so deep Lightfoot has to remind people that, hey, it’s only a song.

“I crossed paths with one guy who was totally convinced ‘Sundown’ was about him,” Lightfoot says. “He was so worried about it, I had to stand there and ease his fears.”

Enjoy an evening with Gordon Lightfoot on Sat, March 5, when he performs at Ardrey Auditorium, 115 S. Knoles Drive on the NAU campus. Doors for the all-ages show open at 6:30 p.m. and the music starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $35–$87 and can be purchased online at
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Old 03-03-2016, 12:07 PM   #2
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Default Re: Flagstaff, Arizona-Mar.5-2016 article
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Old 03-04-2016, 08:49 AM   #3
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Default Re: Flagstaff, Arizona-Mar.5-2016 article

That pay list is something else. Thanks for posting it.
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Old 03-05-2016, 11:44 PM   #4
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Default FLAGSTAFF, ARIZONA-March 5,2016

RICK: We rolled up to the Northern Arizona University's Ardrey Memorial Auditorium in Flagstaff, Arizona, for this Saturday nite show. We played here in 2008. One day I'll get a bit further west to stand "On a corner in Winslow, Arizona"

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Old 03-08-2016, 07:39 PM   #5
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Default Re: FLAGSTAFF, ARIZONA-March 5,2016

1. The Watchman's Gone
2. Waiting For You
3. Now and Then
4. Drifters
5. All The Lovely Ladies
6. A Painter Passing Through
7. Christian Island
8. Shadows
9. Beautiful
10. Carefree Highway
11. Did She Mention My Name
12. Ribbon Of Darkness
13. Sundown
14. Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald
15. Never Too Close
16. I'd Rather Press On
17. Let it Ride
18. If You Could Read My Mind
19. Restless
20. Early Morning Rain
21. Rainy Day People
22. Cold On The Shoulder (encore)
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Old 03-10-2016, 12:29 AM   #6
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Default flagstaff

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Took A road trip to see Gordon in Flagstaf , I attached a couple of pictures , took the exit off the hi way where Gordon saw the carefree sign . Went down the road a way and took the pic . We were in route to the show from Phoenix . Also a picture of Gordon on stage and one of many pictures we took of our Creators work center stage. This whole area is beautiful and God is great. Southwest USA is very unique . We went to Phoenix , Sedona and flagstaff areas . Incredible . We will see Gordon later at home in Oklahoma . Talked to Warren at the show , he told me to look him up in Oklahoma and he will hooks up. Hope so. We talked a few minutes , he said the altitude was having an effect and that they were leaving immediately for Memphis . Gordon talked about Memphis and Elvis and how they all were going to Graceland and some time off.

Char , I am a little puzzled at your set list although I did not write them down . Actually had to step out of the show in the second set. Was a little sick this trip . Pretty sure he opened with Now and Then and it took him three tries to start Much To My Surprise , he kept forgetting the words , he gave the song a long introduction , also Pony Man was in there , best of my memory. Anyhow , all is well. We had a good trip and home safe . Like I said , God is Great
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Old 03-10-2016, 07:55 AM   #7
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Default Re: flagstaff

Love these! WE've been to Arizona many times, since we have relatives on both sides of the family (in Mesa, Scottsdale, Tucson, & Flagstaff). We've been to Carefree, AZ, & of course had to take a picture of the road sign! Thanks!

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Old 06-24-2016, 10:58 PM   #8
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Default Re: Flagstaff, Arizona-Mar.5-2016 article

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Old 06-24-2016, 10:59 PM   #9
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Old 06-24-2016, 11:01 PM   #10
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