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Old 02-09-2020, 10:35 PM   #3
Join Date: May 2000
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Default Re: Zoomer magazine cover boy again!!!

Just Like a Paperback Novel

Gordon Lightfoot has dodged death, had myriad romantic entanglements and outlasted most of his contemporaries. At 81, the Canadian troubadour takes stock of life and love on his new album, Solo.

ZOOMER Magazine3 Feb 2020By Nicholas Jennings Photography by Bryan Adams

At 81, Gordon Lightfoot, Canada’s troubadour, takes stock of life and love
I’m driving up Toronto’s Bayview Avenue on a winter’s night in early January. I turn into the Bridle Path neighbourhood, an ultra-posh enclave known as Millionaire’s Row. I slow down opposite rapper Drake’s monster palace, complete with indoor basketball court, and turn toward the stately home of Gordon Lightfoot. It’s a route I know well. As Lightfoot’s biographer, I’ve travelled there many times, off and on, over a 12-year period.

Much has transpired since my book, Lightfoot, was published in 2017. For one thing, Lightfoot has reached the age of 81. For another, he was the subject of a major documentary, Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind, in which he discussed his storied career and timeless songs alongside fans like Geddy Lee, Anne Murray and Alec Baldwin. Plus, he’d become a great-grandfather. He’s already the father of six children (by four mothers) and grandfather to another five. Think of him as Papa Lightfoot, the last of the troubadours, the grand old man of Canadian song.

As I head up the winding driveway, I wonder what awaits. It’s a new year and new decade. What will be the latest chapter in the singer-songwriter’s tale, and will the notoriously reticent artist be more forthcoming? I park out front. There’s plenty of room because Lightfoot keeps his 2001 Chevy Monte Carlo in the garage around back. I walk across lightly fallen snow and ring his doorbell. Already something’s different. A weathered lawn chair is folded up and set to one side. On previous visits, Lightfoot would often be sitting in that chair, smoking a cigarette, even in the dead of winter.
The door opens, and Lightfoot’s wife, Kim, greets me enthusiastically. She leads me to the music room off the large, marbled-tiled foyer. This is Lightfoot’s lair, a dark, wood-panelled room full of Martin and Gibson guitars, Fender and Traynor amps, vintage cassette recorders and shelves full of tapes and notebooks containing the set lists of concerts going back decades. “Have a seat,” Lightfoot tells me. “Let’s get down to business.”

I’m there, in part, to learn more about Solo, Lightfoot’s 21st studio album and his first since the 2004’s Harmony. Solo is a collection made up entirely of songs that date back to the early 2000s. Lightfoot found the recordings last year while moving out of his Early Morning Productions office on Yonge Street. What’s remarkable about the album’s 10 tracks is their stark intimacy, both lyrically and musically.

I’m also here to gather fresh insights into the composer of classics such as “Sundown,” “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” and “If You Could Read My Mind” and the man Bob Dylan once called a mentor. “Tell me something surprising, Gord,” I say right off the bat. He stands up, still spry at 81, lean as a whippet, and begins thumbing through a Webster’s dictionary. Finding the word he’s looking for, he spells it out and reads the definition: “H-E-M-A-T-O-M-A – a local tumour or swelling filled with an effusion of blood between the
muscle and the epidermis.” I knew all about it. Last July, Lightfoot injured his left leg on a piece of exercise equipment at the Toronto fitness centre he’s been going to religiously since he quit drinking in 1982. The swelling was so bad he needed surgery. Lightfoot was forced to cancel tour dates, something he hated doing.

But I didn’t know that Lightfoot is anemic and, perhaps as a result, the hematoma still hasn’t fully healed. Lightfoot is wearing shorts that reveal his bandaged leg, and he wants to tell me all about the wound in graphic detail. “It was a weeper, a real weeper,” he exclaims almost gleefully, insisting I look at two photos, before and after surgery, something I cannot un-see. Lightfoot may be a legendary artist, with songs covered by everyone from Elvis Presley to Barbra Streisand, but he’s just like the rest of us when it comes to sharing health dramas.

Lightfoot rhymes off his other ailments, including “dry vasomotor rhinitis,” a chronic inflammation of the sinuses. It affects his singing voice, and he needs nasal spray to perform. He has had two brushes with death – one real, the other a hoax. In September 2002, he had severe stomach pains right before a concert in his hometown of Orillia, Ont. His sister, Beverley, found him lying on the floor of his dressing room in agony. He had to be airlifted to Hamilton, where he had a tracheotomy and emergency surgery for a ruptured aortic artery. He spent six weeks in a coma and had four operations over several months. But Lightfoot, miraculously, bounced back. Just two years later, he released Harmony and slowly returned to performing. Then in 2006, he suffered a transient stroke that affected his ability to fingerpick, but he “pressed on” and fully recovered. The hoax came four years later, when a false report of his death went viral. Lightfoot heard the news on the radio on the way to his dentist and called in to quash it. Ever since, he’s joked in concert that, like Mark Twain, reports of his death have been greatly exaggerated.

On top of all this, Lightfoot has emphysema. He has always been a heavy smoker – he started when he was 15 and singing in barbershop quartets – but had his last cigarette in late 2018. What motivated him was surprising. It wasn’t his emphysema (which his mother, Jessica, also a heavy smoker, died from in 1998) but a pact he made with his youngest son, Miles. Miles bailed, but Lightfoot stuck it out – proof of his ironclad will and his steely resolve to survive. It also explains the folded lawn chair on the porch. “I haven’t quit smoking everything,” he explains with a grin, noting his taste for legal cannabis, “although I may switch to edibles.”

All the talk of health brings us to Kim, his 59-year
old third wife, whom he met in 2008 at a concert in Orlando, Fla. He married the background actor from Mason City, Iowa, on Dec. 19, 2014, at Toronto’s Rosedale United Church, where Lightfoot sings at the Christmas Eve service. “Kim’s a very helpful and good person in so many ways,” he says. “She travels with me on tour. She looks after me, and that means my family doesn’t have to do it – they should consider themselves lucky! She goes to the pharmacy, looks after my medications, goes with me to all appointments and would rather sleep on the hospital floor than leave me there – and you can print that!”

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