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Old 02-09-2020, 10:37 PM   #4
Join Date: May 2000
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Default Re: Zoomer magazine cover boy again!!!

Journalists have always found Lightfoot tight-lipped about his personal life. Interviews are a minefield, and he navigates them assiduously, careful not to step on any potentially explosive topic. With me, he even used the words “powder keg,” to explain why he suddenly closed the door on further talk about the women in his life, including his previous wife, Elizabeth. And he worries that if he says too much about any of them – his first wife, Brita, his tumultuous affair with Cathy Smith or his common-law marriage to Cathy Coonley – the words will “come back to haunt me.”

Speaking of haunting, one of Lightfoot’s most famous songs, the 1970 hit “If You Could Read My Mind,” covered by everyone from Liza Minnelli to Neil Young, was written amid his dissolving six-year marriage to Brita, who died in 2005. “It was a kind of unrequited love song, partly due to love’s roller-coaster,” Lightfoot has explained. “Marriages that don’t succeed – I guess it relates to that.” When pressed, he recognizes his affairs are the reason the marriage failed. It’s why he no longer performs his earliest hit, 1965’s “For Lovin’ Me,” with its boast: “I’ve got a hundred more (women) like you, I’ll have a thousand ’fore I’m through.” “That,” Lightfoot previously told me, “was chauvinistic.”

Lightfoot had no shortage of affairs during his heyday, and his wild ways were fuelled by drugs and booze, sometimes a bottle of Canadian Club a day. His 1974 chart topper “Sundown” was a taut tale of jealousy, written during his time with Smith, a beautiful and notorious flirt and sometime backup singer who later served prison time for injecting John Belushi with a fatal dose of heroin and cocaine. But Lightfoot dramatically changed his ways and now often speaks of being in a state of “repentance.” Along with no longer singing “For Lovin’ Me,” he rewrote the words to “If You Could Read My Mind” at the insistence of his daughter Ingrid. Now when he performs the classic song, he sings “the feelings that we lack” rather than “the feelings that you lack,” acknowledging that marriage is a two-way street.

Part of Lightfoot’s repentance involves making time for his kids, whom he says he neglected when his career was a constant cycle of writing, recording, touring, partying, sailing and then canoeing, drying out and getting fit for the next round of writing, recording and touring. Today, his complex schedule would benefit from a flow chart, mapping out where and when he sees his large, extended family. His two eldest children, Fred, 56, and Ingrid, 54, from his first marriage to Brita, are in the Toronto area, and each have two kids of their own. Lightfoot’s nine-month-old great-grandson, Adam, comes from Ingrid’s daughter Amber. His sons, Eric, 38, from his common-law marriage to Coonley, and Galen, 44, are out on the West Coast, but Lightfoot stays in close touch. Galen’s mother was a waitress at the Troubadour club in Los Angeles, with whom Lightfoot had an affair in the ’70s.

Meanwhile, Miles, 30, lives in Thornhill, while his sister, 25-year-old Meredith, who goes by their mother Elizabeth’s maiden name of Moon, has moved about while pursuing her musical ambitions as a singerbanjoist. Lightfoot and Elizabeth separated in 2003, shortly after his near-fatal aneurysm, and divorced eight years later. About his children, Lightfoot says: “We visit back and forth. They come to me or I go to them. If we’re not doing that, then we speak on the telephone. A bit of emailing goes on between Kim and a couple of the kids because I don’t use computers.” (Lightfoot doesn’t have a cellphone either.)
Has Lightfoot been able to maintain good relations with his ex-wife? “Well, I handle that as best I can but I’m really not going to touch on that subject,” he replies, not wanting to upset Kim. It’s clear from everything I’ve witnessed that Kim and Lightfoot have a good marriage. Nonetheless, Lightfoot doesn’t say too much else about her in our interview to dodge a possible “commotion” with Elizabeth. There’s that minefield again.

OOur attention shifts to Solo. For the first time in Lightfoot’s nearly 60year recording career, there’s no accompaniment on the album – just his unvarnished voice and ringing acoustic guitar. Never has he sounded so raw and vulnerable. By turns wistful and whimsical, the songs are soul-baring, full of candid reflections on life and love, taking stock of his past. At one point, Lightfoot considered calling the album Bare Tracks, while his fouryear-old granddaughter, Lennox, suggested Bare Ass Naked. Naked, indeed.

The album opens with the nostalgic “Oh So Sweet,” a steady, fingerpicked number that looks back on good times amid regrets about “things said and done.” The gently strummed “E-Motion” finds Lightfoot confessing to being a “king-sized fool,” while on the bluesy
“Dreamdrift,” he’s “still as crazy as I always have been.” There are philosophical ruminations on “Return Into Dust” and “The Laughter We Seek,” and “Just a Little Bit” is a humorous litany of routine chores and surroundings, including the CN Tower. There are several uptempo numbers Lightfoot quaintly calls “toe-tappers” and romantic ones he describes as “lovey-dovey.”

I ask what happened to “It Doesn’t Really Matter” and “24 Hour Blues,” two newer songs he played me several years ago that don’t appear on Solo. Lightfoot, ever the perfectionist, says the former “simply wasn’t good enough” to include, while the latter “bit the dust” because it had a line that he worried might offend one of his doctors – I kid you not. I change gears and ask if Lightfoot can give an example of the good times with a past lover that he hints at on “Oh So Sweet.” “Oh jeez,” he groans, “I don’t want to do that!

People get mad at you when they read about your past, and you don’t want to cause some kind of confrontation. I try and tell them it’s poetic licence, but that doesn’t work with Kim. She believes I’m relating back to a former relationship and gets offended.” Kim later texts me, admitting that while she finds it hard listening to her husband’s songs about other women, she has come to realize she must share him. “No one can have all of Gordon – we each have our unique love story with him.”

It’s the songwriter’s curse, I tell Lightfoot. Couldn’t a lover in one of your songs be a composite of different women, I ask, and the narrative be set in a mix of times and places? “Yes, indeed!” Lightfoot replies, excitedly. “That’s poetic licence!” The man with the long, lanky hair sitting across from me suddenly goes quiet. He is staring down at his hands. I notice the long, slender fingers and finely manicured nails, essential for fingerpicking, the liver spots that dot the back of his hands and a
rubber wristband from Stagecoach, the California country music festival he played in 2018. Reading his mood, I decide to lighten the conversation.

Knowing that Lightfoot has been friends with Dylan going back to 1965 when they shared a manager in Albert Grossman, I ask if he’s seen Martin Scorsese’s 2019 film about the Rolling Thunder Revue, Dylan’s celebrated travelling circus tour with musical friends that featured Lightfoot when it stopped in Toronto. He hasn’t watched it yet. I tell him there’s a scene with Dylan, Joni Mitchell and ex-Byrd Roger McGuinn jamming on the second floor of Lightfoot’s Rosedale mansion, where the Rolling Thunder entourage had a wild party after one of the shows. You can spot Lightfoot in the background, trying to stay out of the eye of the camera. “Yeah, they were all there at the house,” Lightfoot recalls. “Bob’s road manager, Bob Neuwirth, came over in advance to ask if they could come by for drinks. I said sure and called my sister, Beverley, and other family members to see if they’d help out. I got Ingrid and Cathy Coonley involved. They were all there, all the cast, Ronnie Hawkins and even Allen Ginsberg. It was quite a gathering.” Typical Lightfoot understatement. The party was pure rock ’n’ roll bacchanal. “Yeah, I should see the film,” says Lightfoot, “I’m told I’d like it.”

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