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Old 03-02-2009, 06:33 AM   #1
Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 15,602
Default Tulsa article-March 1/09

Folk great Gordon Lightfoot carries on tradition

Gordon Lightfoot, shown performing at the Brady Theater in 2007, returns to Tulsa on Saturday. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World file
By MARK BROWN World Scene Editor
Published: 3/1/2009 2:33 AM
Last Modified: 3/1/2009 3:08 AM

London punk survivor Paul Weller first of the Jam, then of the Style Council, now on his own and something of a stalwart at that recorded a Gordon Lightfoot tune, "Early Mornin' Rain," on his 2004 album of cover songs, "Studio 150."

It wasn't unusual. Dozens before Weller had done the same, everybody from the Kingston Trio to the Brothers Four. And there isn't anything especially unique about Weller's take on "Rain," other than perhaps only now, with too many shows under his belt and rasping his throat, does it even seem like a song he'd sing, either by choice or disposition.

Singing "Early Mornin' Rain," Weller isn't even Weller. Something in the universal note of the song nods to its composer, Gordon Lightfoot, even down to the absolute lack of any Surrey, working-class accent whatsoever. Weller the Londoner sounds eerily like Lightfoot the Canadian.

"No, no, I haven't heard that one," Lightfoot said over the telephone from Toronto. "Who did you say?"

"Paul Weller."

"Yeah," said Lightfoot, something in his voice trailing, "I can look that up on the Internet."

MB: We wrote a story about you in 2007 and, in it, you said that you had about six ideas in your side desk that you'd like to start working on? Is it that organized, your idea drawer?

GL: Oh, sure, there's always five ready to go. But it really would serve no purpose. I was under contract over 33 years. (Four years and five albums with United Artists, 14 albums and 29 years on Warner Brothers/Reprise.) The main focus now is on doing shows, we're very experienced at that. (We: Rick Haynes, bass; Terry Clements, lead guitar; Barry Keane, drums; Michael Heffernan, keyboards.)

You're still traveling the globe, guitar in hand, at 70. Did you think it'd take you this far, I mean, in life?

Well, I certainly did wonder that at the beginning. Nobody knows even if they're gonna make it. In my mid-20s, I did wonder how long it was going to last. Now, my way of staying on top of it, of staying motivated, is a regular program (exercise). Actors do it, singers do it. Not when I'm on the road. Only here in the city. I'll be on the road 85 days this year, all other days, there's no excuse. My life runs on a system. If you stay motivated, you keep moving forward.

No matter what you're writing and singing about and some of it can be pretty scathing stuff there's something in your voice that mitigates, possibly even elevates, the pain. What is that?

I really don't know. I've had enough emotional upheaval in my life to be able to relate. There were periods of time I've written during times of emotional stress. "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" I wrote after reading a half-page article in Newsweek. I said, "This'll be forgotten." I knew that people would hear it, listen to it. People related to those sailors.

It was the worst storm since 1912. Almost the perfect storm. In fact for them, it was. Some thought a hatch cover may have come loose. Or that a ventilator cap was left open, in which case the water would come gushing into the ship. (The SS Edmund Fitzgerald, the "Mighty Fitz," went down in November 1975. None of its 29 crew was ever found.)

Is "Early Mornin' Rain" your "On the Road"? Your lyric romanticizes the train, yet you're on a runway.

I know, I know. (Lightfoot chuckles.) I just sat down one afternoon and wrote it. I was baby-sitting. It came from nowhere, referring back to my days in Westlake (College of Music, in Hollywood). We'd hang out at the airport and watch the planes take off. There wasn't anything to do, we didn't have cars. I was taking a music theory course. I wanted to be able to write. It was quite a challenge. Not as hard as baby-sitting.

You're probably as close to a troubadour as it gets. Do you feel a kinship with that kind of performance?

Well, I don't see it as the wandering minstrel image. That's more like Gilbert and Sullivan. No, I don't. But in some ways, maybe I do. I still play in the folk style. There aren't that many of us around. Don't get me wrong, it's not a dull show. But we do try to get absolute tuning. And we've learned how to do it well, just in the last 10 years.

What do the great ones possess?

There's so many people to respect in this business. They all have great songs, great arrangements and great vocals. On stage, on record, whatever. It's there.

Leonard Cohen is a fellow countryman. Do you identify with him on any level? How do those from Ontario generally relate to the Quebecois?

We've had a bit of a wall between us because of the language. It got sorted out, in some ways. It's the language. See, 90 percent of us aren't smart enough to learn it. I gave it up in high school. I play the cities. I play Quebec City and Montreal, but if I tried to do it in French, they'd laugh at me.

I'm thinking Lightfoot is your surname. What sort is it?

Scottish. Scottish as you can get. I'm really tight with my money. I've never invested. I'm sure glad, too.
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Old 03-02-2009, 08:36 AM   #2
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Default Re: Tulsa article-March 1/09

i like the last paragraph!.... thanks for posting!
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