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Old 11-16-2016, 06:28 PM   #1
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Default plans of his own - INTERVIEW-part 1and 2


The singer lay silenced, his synapses struggling for some light within the darkness of the coma that had muted his voice. An eye flutter here, a possible movement there but the man who’s music meant much to many, a country’s troubadour, wasn’t waking up. It was a state he would remain in for nearly 42 days, six weeks hushed while those who loved him worried by his bedside.

They would place headphones over his ears, pumping songs from other weavers of words into his brain hoping one of them would trigger something, anything, a memory that could awaken him. For weeks there was nothing but then, suddenly, words and melody collided in the needed blend of musical medicinal melding. Somewhere in the black he heard a voice.

The minstrel of the dawn is here
To make you laugh and bend your ear
Up the steps you’ll hear him climb
All full of thoughts, all full of rhymes
Listen to the pictures flow
Across the room into your mind they go

And into his mind they went and not just any rhymes, not just any words. These were his rhymes, his words written over three decades before the ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm that placed him in this current state. For weeks they had tried to rouse him with the music of others but, in the end, the singer finally opened his eyes to his own song.

In the years to come, there’d be surgeries, a tracheotomy, a stroke and even media reports that he had shuffled off this mortal coil. Not true. Not today. Not yet. There were still words to write, still music to play, still work to do. The rumours of his death, as they say, were greatly exaggerated.

Gordon Lightfoot had other plans.

“I wondered if I would ever be able to perform again. I tell you, for a while there I wasn’t sure,” Lightfoot tells Ottawa Life between tour stops, some that include his first UK shows in over 30 years. There’s a chuckle in his voice, the kind that only comes from those who have narrowly skittered away from tumbling over the edge where now, with a little distance, they can laugh about it.

That fact that the wheels are still rolling is a testament to his endurance, something Lightfoot is no stranger to. He’d climbed mountains before: loves lost due to the inherent distance of the journeyman, battles with the bottle and road weary loneliness where sometimes strangers are your only comfort. These peaks he’d faced were now behind him. This new climb, however, would be like hiking up Everest backwards and blindfolded. Lightfoot glanced up, breathed in, and took the initial steps armed with a new life model: “Don’t stop now!”

The road to recovery wouldn’t be without a few rocks (and at least a couple of boulders) but the Canadian folk legend pushed on returning to the familiar with a steadfast resolve to only allow the illness to slow him, not stop him. With temporary paralysis in two fingers on his right hand, the man retaught himself how to play his instrument, the guitar that over the decades must seem more like an extra limb. When his body weakened he engaged in a disciplined daily exercise routine to regain his strength.

“Don’t stop now!”

It only took a year to return to the studio. Music had brought him back and the music he would serve. Since then he’s embarked on multiple tours, appeared on Canadian Idol, amassed even more accolades and released two new albums. He says he’s slowed down, though.

This week he debuts his first tune in 12 years, “Plans of My Own”, an unreleased ghost Lightfoot decided to shake the dust off of and breathe a little life into.

His latest track is an ode to the road, looking back at the miles already traveled and the ones that remain. It’s a place where the musician has spent much of his life, where he continues to return to, moving still from city to city, thankful to be alive and sharing his songs.

In part one or our two-part interview, we find Lightfoot reflecting
back on his career that began early, a thirteen-year-old kid singing
on the stage of Toronto’s famed Massey Hall. We’ll follow his trek
into pre-60s California, his early days in the folk revival and
the day a young Bob Dylan chided him for
not knowing how to type.

Ottawa Life: Back in your hometown this month The Orillia Festival celebrated your music with Lightfoot Days. That’s got to feel great. You’ve said you owe a lot of what shaped your voice to your childhood singing with the Orillia St. Paul’s United Church. Can you elaborate on what you feel you learned?

Gordon Lightfoot: Well, it was a training ground for anyone who ever had any thoughts of being a singer and I had thoughts of doing that very early. Singing in the choir was sort of a step in that direction but, at the same time, my mother was a very kindly lady and she got me taking piano lessons. I was doing both and one sort of helped the other. They worked together. The second year I got to sing a solo in Massey Hall at age 13 and. I think since that time I’ve done in the area of 167 concerts there. Sometimes we’d do about four of five nights in a row there. But it all started with singing in the junior choir, to make a long story short.

Another honour was having a four-metre statue of you put up out there. What were you thoughts when you discovered that you’d be immortalized in bronze?

It’s actually more of a sculpture. I refer to it as a sculpture. I’m very proud of it. It’s very nice and it actually transports me back to the ‘70s. It’s the way my head looked during the ‘70s. What comes with the sculpture are about twenty of my songs engraved in it with illustrations that surrounds this thing. I love it!

You mentioned first singing inside the legendary Massey Hall when you were only 13. What has that particular venue come to mean for you over the years?

Well it’s like a home base. It’s a tradition! It’s like a hometown for me now, so we’re playing for the hometown and the relatives and the friends. We want to do a good job when we play there. We’re thinking about the shows we are going to do there months in advance. I start thinking of what kind of show I am going to do at Massey Hall this year.

Many musicians left Canada to find greater fame in the U.S. (Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young) but, unlike them, you didn’t remain long. What was that time like for you?

Well, I think Leonard spent a whole lot of time in Montreal. He divided his time back and forth. The other two actually did move down there to get their green card status. We deal with our work permit problems. It’s a rotating thing. I could have moved down there and gotten a green card but the fact is I was signed with two American companies and there was never a problem getting a work permit. So, I just stayed here.

What do you feel you took back with you from your time out there?

I actually went to school there when I left high school to study notation. I was writing songs and trying to write charts and I didn’t know how to write music. Even though I had the piano lessons and all that business earlier I wanted to learn how to write music, put it all on to paper. As a matter of fact, it was the job that I did when I got back to Toronto. As a copyist I learned a whole lot more. So then I could write my own arrangements. A lot of this stuff goes to paper first. I did just about all of that, handwritten, for my first 18 albums.

You made that move right before the ’60s gave rise to a lot of changes to the way art was viewed and created. A lot of that took place in California where you were. What do you think an alternative version of you might have done had you remained in 1960s California?

I actually was not quite sure at that point in time. I came back here after having done that, came back to Toronto to look for work. I got a job here in the city, worked in an office for 14 months and kept writing songs. Just about the same time the folk revival busted into the picture and I started to get interested in Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan and Judy Collins. I took that as a direction in which I might travel with my writing, where I could stop using the piano as a writing tool and start using the guitar. I had learned to play the guitar when I was 15 and now I’m talking about six years later. I got into that groove. I joined up with the folk revival, became part of that, and got a recording contract. I had a partner and we sang in bars and lounges and coffee houses. I got a job next as a choral performer in a television variety show that was played 35 times a year because I was a good sight reader. A lot of that went back to why I went to West Lake and why I came home. I guess you could say I probably had no intention of staying out there. I was there to take a course.

second section of Part 1 in next post.
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Old 11-16-2016, 06:30 PM   #2
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Default Re: plans of his own - INTERVIEW-part 1

Despite where your music would end up, I read it was jazz got you out there?

I was interested in jazz all through high school and it was a jazz orientated school that taught that notation, sight reading, ear training, transposition, time values, all things you need to know to write music by hand. In those days you had to write your own lead sheets to get them registered and copyrighted. You had to write them right out and mail them in but before you did that you had to send one to yourself. So you had to do it twice! I was up burning the midnight oil at lot of times writing music. It was like Johann Sebastian Bach, you know, where his wife stands over him with the candelabra and says: “Johann, the garbage?”

That’s a fair compassion.

And I was married and had two very young children born thirteen months apart. I was living in a very small apartment and I was 25 at that point. You know, I just kept writing and all of a sudden I got some stuff recorded by Ian and Sylvia Tyson, one of the most esteemed folk duos of all time. From there they were under contract with a very high-level management firm in New York. Ian then did a very unselfish thing when he moved those songs on to Peter, Paul and Mary. They were doing really well at the time. They recorded a couple of songs and mine got released as a single and made it up to number five in the Billboard charts.

Kind of reminds me of the Byrds covering Dylan back then, having hits with Bob’s tunes.

Peter, Paul and Mary also did a lot Dylan’s tunes.

Speaking of covers of your songs, I look at, well we just mentioned Dylan, Belafonte, the Grateful Dead and Barbra Streisand and even actor Mike Myers come to mind. Do you have any particular favourites?

I like the one that Diana Krall and Sarah McLachlan just did on “If You Could Read My Mind” . It’s different. That’s why I like it so much.

You’ve mentioned looking at Dylan with such a respect for his music that you wanted to do your tunes the way he does his own. Subsequently, Bob has said you’re one of his favourite musicians. There is certainly a mutual respect there.

Remember I mentioned Ian and Sylvia being with that high level management? Well, the office that they were with also included Bob Dylan. So, I got to meet Bob because we were both managed by the same company. They had their homes in Woodstock prior to the Woodstock event and we would meet up in Woodstock. I would be at Bob’s house and then the Band came along and they got property up there and started backing Bob up on his shows. I watched that whole process.

Wow, front row seat to music history!

Then Janis Joplin came into the picture. It was really this high level…the guy’s name was Albert Grossman, that was his name, and he was the number one agent in New York for the folk/rock scene at the time. At lot of these agents must have thought it was D-Day, for goodness sake. One guy managed Simon and Garfunkel, another managed Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie and Woody Guthrie and Albert had Peter, Paul and Mary, Bob Dylan, Ian and Sylvia, myself and Odetta.

You’re just going through a who’s who of my favourite musicians. It’s fantastic! When it comes to Dylan, why do you feel there’s this mutual draw to one another’s songs?

It’s an amazing thing. I was always amazed by how prolific Bob was. That was the part of his example that interested me most. You know, I saw him sitting a typewriter one day, just typing poetry idly. There he was typing away on this old machine going right at it. There’s Bob Dylan, you just can’t imagine it. I was amazed because I didn’t know he could do that. It was one of these really old typewriters too. He says: “Hey, didn’t you take typing in high school?” and I say: “You know, Bob, instead of typing I took Latin class”.

We were just talking about one of your most iconic songs. “If You Could Read My Mind” is four years away from turning 50.

I always save that one for near the end of the show. Even I never get tired of playing that song.

Skipping ahead five decades, “Plans of My Own” is your first new song since 2004. Why do you think it’s taken so long for that one to see the light of day?

Well, that one got lost in the shuffle. I put it down one night when I was doing some demos. I admit, it sounds like a record. The trouble is the lyric. I had not had a chance to redo the lyric so it could become memorisable so I omitted it from the Painter Passing Through. Instead it got left in the vault until the engineer from the studio called me a couple of months ago and told me they were cleaning up their files and they were going to delete it. “What do you want me to do with this one?” he said. I thought I remembered that one, it was about being on the road. I was on the road still 15 years later so I told him to send it over. First my wife Kim liked it. Then my secretary Anne liked it. Then we sent it out to Rhino and they really liked it. So it had been gathering dust all these years.

It’s always fascinating to me when I learn that musicians that I am fans of, like yourself, have all these unreleased songs gathering dust, as you say. Springsteen is a guy who probably has about 15 albums of unreleased material. I was listening to “Plans of My Own” again this morning and I see how a lot of your songs are personal ones. This one, though, seems very reflective, about moving forward.

Always forward. Mostly I’m looking after my kids, now. I have six kids and a swatch of grandchildren so I like to pay attention. That’s one of the reasons why I don’t get deeply involved in making another album. It’s a matter of time, I guess, but I really love doing these shows. You know, I must have been about three and ever since they stood me up on my grandmother’s kitchen table to sing and they gave me a round of applause…well, I guess I never forgot it.

In part two of our chat with Gordon Lightfoot, the musician talks about his near death experiences, recovering from illness and how he maintains his energy on stage. He also reveals what he feel is his greatest accolade.

Gordon Lightfoot returns to the National Arts Centre
on Saturday, November 19. Tickets are available
online or at the NAC Box Office.

Written by: Andre Gagne on November 16, 2016.
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Old 11-16-2016, 06:37 PM   #3
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Default Re: plans of his own - INTERVIEW-part 1

Thanks for the post! Can't wait to hear the song
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Old 11-18-2016, 07:16 PM   #4
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Default PLANS OF MY OWN - new tune! - listen here-LINK

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Old 11-18-2016, 07:29 PM   #5
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Default Re: plans of his own - INTERVIEW-part 1and 2


Gordon Lightfoot walks in on a young Bob Dylan hunkered over a typewriter, the poetry of his renowned lyricism passing through his fingers and onto the keys to be imprinted in ink on paper. They will either be used or jettisoned. We’ll never know. It was a pretty prolific time for both of them.

You could picture Dylan there, disheveled, a wisp of smoke rising from the collection of crushed out cigs in the ashtray beside him, hammering out his lines while Lightfoot stood dumbfounded by the man’s ability to type.

Bob, perhaps without missing a keystroke, turns and, through the smoke, speaks in a voice that can only belong to him: “What, Gord, you never learned how to type in high school?”

Lightfoot retorts with the first thing that comes to mind: “Well, Bob, I took Latin lessons.”

Bob may have grinned, he may have grunted, but he most certainly kept on typing. As I said, it was a pretty prolific time.

The year is somewhere around 1964 and Bob’s about to blow the roof off the folk revival by going electric. Lightfoot may have very well been bearing witness to the genesis of lines that would form Dylan’s lyrical rock revolution.

How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone

How did it feel, I wonder?

This is the mid-60s. This was Woodstock, New York, a couple of years before half a million strong would descend upon Yasgur’s farm forever transforming the little town into a moment that would define an era. For now, though, Woodstock wasn’t a festival. It was a colony of creativity where one could have painted one of those music icon assembly posters and it’d have actually been a reality. Along with Gordon and Bob, people like Janis Joplin, Simon and Garfunkel, Hendrix, George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison and the Band would all pass through at some point.

Bob and Gordon would carry a mutual respect for one another all their lives and when asked Lightfoot wouldn’t hesitate in saying Dylan was his favourite musican but it all started there. Lightfoot was writing songs that would become hits for others at the time while working on his first album. It would be released after his buddy Bob hammered a few nails into the coffin of his time revitalizing the folk scene. Those days were gone and soon so would go Woodstock. There would be a motorcycle crash, those world-shattering new recordings and a man who was already a star would move out of his shimmering corner of the universe into the galaxy of legend.

Gordon had a few years to go but he’d get there. 16 Juno Awards, 4 ASCAP song writing awards, five Grammy nominations, Canadian recording artist of the decade. He was inducted onto Canada’s Walk of Fame in 1998, made a celebrity captain of the Leafs, given the Order of Ontario to go along with the Order of Canada. Heck, they even sculpted him out of bronze in his hometown of Orilla. It was only fitting when, in 1986, Bob got to induct Gordon into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

Still, with all the accolades and trophies and plaques, Gordon shy’s away from acknowledging what his music has meant to his country. He doesn’t really consider himself a legend, Canadian or otherwise, just a guy with a guitar and a few words to sing. When asked what his most cherished award is he mentions certificates he won singing for the Kiwanis club. This was before meeting Bob, before Woodstock, before even writing his first songs.

Gordon was only 13.

Now in his twilight years, he looks to his youth and, like Charles Foster Kane in the famed Welles film, he holds tightly to the memories of growing up. Lightfoot’s Rosebud would be Massey Hall.

“There I was 13 years old and singing a solo,” says Lightfoot still sounding astonished by this moment, as though it were only last week and not over five decades ago.

Though illness has threatened to take him out a few pieces at a time, thankfully, the memory remains. He’d later play there dozens of times but, as a kid, it was where he first got a taste of what could be.

There was no other way to go. A few deviations, yes, but he would be a musician, and, whether he likes to admit it or not, that once 13-year-old kid on the Massey Hall stage would become a legend.

Unlike at least one of his contemporaries, however, he’d become a legend with Latin lessons.

In the second part of my chat with Lightfoot we’ll touch upon his illness and how he overcame it only to come full circle, returning once again to his youthful memories where he’s still a kid singing Christmas tunes on his relative’s kitchen table.

Ottawa Life: Many don’t expect such a drastic curve to be tossed their way so late in their career but, in 2002, you were standing at the start of what would become a bump filled road ahead of you for a few years. A few newspapers, if I recall correctly, even proclaimed you hadn’t survived. How did that affect you? I read you were having visions of your own death for a while?

Gordon Lightfoot: That thing lasted for 19 months altogether, from start to finish, but for the first six weeks I don’t remember anything. They played music for me to make me wake up and the very first tune I heard was one of my audience’s favorite tunes, “Minstrel of the Dawn”. It was the first thing that I finally heard coming through that headset. So for the next several months I recovered from the multitude of operations that I had and started working on some demo recordings. I got the guys into the studio and we made another album.

I wondered if I would ever be able to perform again. I tell you for awhile there I wasn’t sure. Then I started to get the feeling that I would be able to the second or third time around going back into the hospital for more rounds of operations. I mean, this thing was something else!

I practiced all the time, when I was home and healing, just practicing the guitar. I think I learned things about the guitar that I didn’t know. We wound up getting a pretty good album out of it. By the time it was all over with it took fourteen months to work on that album while I was going through this whole process and I never thought of my condition at all. I thought how fortuitous it was that we had some raw material that we could work on.

remainder of interview in next post:
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Old 11-18-2016, 07:30 PM   #6
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You said you learned new things about the guitar. As somebody who playing must have seemed like second nature by that point, losing feeling in your fingers must have had you having to approach the instrument differently. What were some of the things you did to keep in form?

What happened next, well, we lost our lead guitar player. He died. Terry Clements, one of my very best friends and it almost brings tears to my eyes. He worked with us for 40 years. I brought him into the band with (Laurice) “Red” Shea when he had to leave the road. Terry was a wonderful guitar player. He got into some health issues and he died at an early age of 63 years old. During that time we brought in a replacement and this guy brought in a tuning system, an idea for me to get better tones out of my instruments because my tuning has never been 100 per cent. Now I had a guy who comes along who had perfect pitch and he shows me what to do. We take the guitars to a technician to get work done that I’d never think of doing and suddenly these guitars are getting easier to tune. By doing this we were achieving about 30% more volume and the sound is a lot cleaner also. We’re getting into some of these places and the people just love it.

Certainly nobody would have blighted you had you decided to retire. I’ve seen you perform twice in recent years. For a guy who’s taken the toll you have your energy still comes out powerfully in the performance. What continues that drive in you to perform?

This is the truth: I exercise every day. I’ve been doing that since 1982. It’s impossible to keep up and yet I’ve been doing it. The older I get the more I do it. That is what is giving me my stamina, my strength, whatever it is. I feel that way when I am up there. I feel strong. I don’t get tired but I have to do that workout every day. I don’t do it in my basement or living room, either. I have to go to a gym. I’ve been going there ever since I gave up alcohol back in ’82. I tried working out about three years before I quit but trying to go in with a hangover wasn’t a great thing. When I gave up alcohol I got into a pretty serious regiment.

That’s a pretty good trade off, alcohol for exercise.

Absolutely! I could never do it with the amount of strength that I do without the exercise. It’s a routine.

You’ve been pretty modest when asked about how you feel your music has shaped this country. We know what your music has meant to Canada but what, do you feel, has Canada meant to you and your music?

Well I got a lot of good ideas about Canada when I was up canoeing in the North. A lot of wonderful landscapes come to mind up above the boreal forest. Landscapes often come into it as backup to a song when I am using my imagination. It’s kind of odd, like background music in a movie. I would get ideas while watching sporting events and practicing my guitar. When you’re under contract, which I was for 33 years, you’re thinking about song titles. For example, the song “Early Morning Rain” was “Early Morning Train” and then I thought there were too many songs about trains on that record.

Another musician that has meant a lot to Canada is Gord Downie. What were your reactions to his announcement this year and him and the Tragically Hip pursuing one final tour?

I know one thing for sure is that he had already had one operation about 11 months ago. I did a show with Gordon for the CBC and it was some of the most fun I’ve ever had. When they were doing their last tour I was afraid I wouldn’t get to see them at all as they were on the road and we were doing our trip. As fate would have it we were playing in a Casino down in Moncton and just as we got off stage we knew their show on CBC was just coming on. So we raced up to the hotel room and watched the whole show from Kingston. It was an experience, watching how that show was done.

Looking to your coming show here at the NAC, can you share a memory about times performing there?

Well, it was 1967 and the place had just opened and all I had was my trio. I had “Red” Shea and John Stockfish and we walked out and played in that place and I was amazed. It was the first night or first week but it was brand new. It was Canada’s 100th birthday. At that time I was not even a confident performer. I still got nervous and felt I was inadequate musically. I got that cured later on.

It’s got to be interesting coming back now for Canada’s 150th. The place has had a bit of a makeover.

Well, I’ll be able to see it from point A from point Z. They’ve told me about this and it only makes me curious.

Over your career you have amassed many awards and accolades but, looking back, what have you personally found the most rewarding aspect?

I don’t know, I think maybe it could be the certificates that I won at the Kiwanis Festivals when I was 13. That was the first time I played in Massey Hall, singing the solo there because I won my class in the second year.

It’s kind of like your Rosebud.

Yeah, I mean, it was a long time before I played there again but there I was 13 years old and singing a solo. My parents loved Bing Crosby and I’d ask my mother if he makes a living doing this. I wanted to make a career out of it even then. I wanted to be a professional!

Written by: Andre Gagne on November 17, 2016.
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Old 11-18-2016, 08:03 PM   #7
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if you have the SPOTIFY APP - listen here:
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Old 11-18-2016, 08:08 PM   #8
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Old 11-18-2016, 08:09 PM   #9
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you tube - (Not available in Canada)
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Old 11-19-2016, 02:12 AM   #10
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Default Re: PLANS OF MY OWN - new tune! - listen here-LINK

if you've got Spotify installed on your computer, its up there already. nice little tune. so this was an APPT outtake? if it was and outtake, he should have put this on in place of Welcome to try!
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Old 11-19-2016, 07:13 AM   #11
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Thanks! I really like it!

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Old 04-06-2018, 08:27 PM   #12
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Old 04-06-2018, 09:02 PM   #13
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1 / 2
Bob Doidge was rummaging through the basement of Grant Avenue Studio a couple of months ago when he came across dozens of recordings made by Gordon Lightfoot 20 years ago.

Most were outtakes from the 1996 album "A Painter Passing Through," which Lightfoot recorded at Grant Avenue with Doidge as co-producer. There were also the master tapes for the album and a little gem of a long-forgotten song called "Plans of My Own."

It never made the album, but probably should have.

So Doidge, owner of Grant Avenue, phoned up Lightfoot's manager in Toronto and asked what he should do with all this tape.

Lightfoot got back to him and told him to destroy it all. Lightfoot, like many artists, doesn't like subpar outtakes hanging around.

I said, 'Well, Gord, I can't throw three of the rolls away, because they're the Painter album … and there's a song down there which blew me away. I sing it to myself all the time. I can't throw that song out."

"Which song?" Lightfoot asked.

"Plans of My Own," Doidge replied.

"Did I ever finish that?" Lightfoot asked.

"As far as I'm concerned you did," Doidge replied.

The track, a sentimental song about moving on to new things, was recorded solo, just Lightfoot singing while fingerpicking his 12-string acoustic guitar. It's classic Lightfoot, with a hummable melody. His voice is strong and his guitar playing fluid.

Lightfoot asked Doidge to send him a copy. Doidge, with the help of sound engineer Amy King, dutifully mixed it and sent it on. Lightfoot loved it and passed it on to his record label, Warner, in Los Angeles.

They liked it, too. On Friday, Nov. 18 Warner is releasing "Plans of My Own" as a digital single, available on streaming services.

"Plans of My Own" is the first new Lightfoot music in 12 years, and its release is planned to coincide with the kickoff of the 77-year-old songwriter's upcoming Ontario tour which includes four shows at Toronto's Massey Hall, Nov. 23-26, and one in Kitchener at Centre in the Square on Nov. 17.

Warner is also re-releasing the 1976 Gordon Lightfoot album "Summertime Dream" on 180-gram vinyl on Nov. 25. "Summertime Dream" has been expanded to include the track "Betty Called Me In" that was left off the original album. The song, however, was included on the 1999 collection "Songbook."

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