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Press Articles


Tuesday April 18th, 2000

For the sake of the song
Lightfoot to tape retrospective at Pioneer concert

Neil Baron
Reno Gazette-Journal

Folk singer Gordon Lightfoot has accomplished a lot in his 61 years.

A large portion of it has been chronicled in the form of 88 songs that appear on his four-CD box set, "Songbook." Even more personal information is detailed in a 60-page hard-cover mini-book that's included in the box set, which was released last year on Rhino/Warner Archives.

Unlike some boxed sets in which the artist has little say as to what appears, Lightfoot was deeply and emotionally involved in the selection process. Lightfoot admits it wasn't easy. Imagine having to look back at all you've done in your life - both good and bad - and you'll have an idea of what it was like for Lightfoot.

"When it came time to digest the entire catalog (consisting of more than 400 songs), which I did over a five-day period, after a while I started to feel relaxed and sort of with it," Lightfoot said by phone from his home in Toronto. "It started to bring back some rather pleasant memories as well as some very stressful memories. So in dealing with those things, it was kind of a growing-up thing, too.

"Then there was the biography and I had to get into some stuff that I find painful in my past. Divorce, my problem with alcohol until 1982 when I quit and things like that began to flood back into my memories. Some of the things I did while under stress. Misbehaviors. But I came to a situation of repentance about it. What I mean is you just get to the point where for the rest of your life you're not going to make waves. You learn to go with the flow, to go along with change."

In some ways, Lightfoot has been rewarded with a new lease on life. Although no longer a force on modern radio, Lightfoot still has the ability to fill small theaters wherever he performs. And he and his wife, Elizabeth, have two children together, Miles, 10, and Meredith, 5.

"I've settled down now," said Lightfoot, who has fathered six children overall. "You see, I had to get with it. I really did. I finally got with it. I'm very happy now. It's fun and I'm enjoying my life a great deal."

Now, Lightfoot is in the midst of a 40-city North American tour. The tour includes an April 19 date at the Pioneer Center in downtown Reno. The performance will be filmed live and shown later this year on PBS in 40 countries worldwide.

Lightfoot said he's spent three years preparing for the show. He also said that after appearing at the venue in 1996, he knew this was where he wanted the show to be filmed."

It's really up-to-date with modest seating, a big stage and I just remember remarking to myself back then, 'What a good place it would be to make an album or do something live,'" Lightfoot said. "So when it came time to choose a spot, that place kept coming back to me."

Lightfoot said he won't feel any additional pressure knowing the show will be seen worldwide, but he has given extra consideration to the preparation that goes into the performance."

I've been very careful in my selection of the material," he said. "This will represent what we were as a band. It's a good thing to do and the time is right. We want to do it before we get too old to do it. While I'm still strong and feeling fit."

Fans attending the show can expect to hear a majority of Lightfoot's hits, including "Sundown," "Carefree Highway," "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," "If You Could Read My Mind" and "Don Quixote."

And he continues to write songs for himself. A new album of original music isn't out of the question, he said."

If it's in there (inside himself), I'll do one, sure," he said. "I've written several songs so I could be ready to go back in (the studio) again. I don't write them with great regularity, but the first time you do a brand new song in front of a crowd is always an interesting moment."

But when it comes to making songs, Lightfoot doesn't give much thought to whether radio will accept it. It's the creative process that counts."

I'm still interested in songwriting," he said. "I don't have as much time as I would like to do it, but I'm still doing it. I can think about lyrics when I'm in the shower. I can think about lyrics when I'm tuning up in the dressing room. I can think about it while I'm driving my car. I keep track of things. I write things all the time on slips of paper and all sorts of crazy things like that. Then I go back to the room where I work and get it together."

While spontaneous writing has its advantages, the process nearly cost Lightfoot one of his biggest hits.

"'Carefree Highway' was almost left in the glove compartment of a rental car we had for a day," said Lightfoot, who at the time had no idea the song would become a hit. "I, for sure, would never have known the difference."

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