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Old 03-10-2011, 08:34 PM   #1
Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 15,569
Default Greensboro article - March 2011

Tale that can’t be forgotten

Singer Gordon Lightfoot

Credit: Courtesy of Icon Performing Arts/News & Record
What: Gordon Lightfoot

When: 8 p.m. March 15

Where: War Memorial Auditorium, 1921 W. Lee St. , Greensboro

Tickets: $34.50 and $49.50

Info: (800) 745-3000,, or Greensboro Coliseum box office

(updated 3:00 am)
By Robert Lopez
The legend lives on, due in large part to Gordon Lightfoot.

In 1975, the Canadian singer/songwriter saw a story about a freighter loaded with 26,000 tons of iron ore that had fallen prey to the “gales of November, come early.” That story inspired Lightfoot to write what would become one of his most beloved tunes, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” This year marks the 35th anniversary of the song.

“I had written a couple of songs about shipwrecks, some real, some unreal,” Lightfoot said in a telephone interview from his home in Toronto. “And I said,

'Here’s a chance to do one and to do it right’ because the others always had room for conjecture, and I didn’t want to have too much of it, though it does have a little bit of conjecture. It was tricky to handle that.”

The 72-year-old folksinger will perform Tuesday at the Greensboro War Memorial Auditorium. He performed in the Triad last year at the Stevens Center in Winston-Salem.

Over the phone, his voice is as warm and comforting as one would expect of the man who sang “Carefree Highway,” “If You Could Read My Mind” and “Beautiful.” A native of Orillia, Ontario, he started singing in the church choir and got his big break as a writer in 1964 when Peter, Paul and Mary scored a hit with his song “For Lovin’ Me.” In the early 1970s, his voice became a staple on American radio with hits such as “Sundown,” “Rainy Day People” and “Summer Side of Life.”

He has received five Grammy nominations and 16 Juno (Canadian music) Awards. In 2003, he became a companion of the Order of Canada, his country’s highest civilian honor.

“The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” appeared on Lightfoot’s 1976 album “Summertime Dream” and recounts the tale of the 729-foot-long ship sometimes referred to as the “Titanic of the Great Lakes.” On the evening of Nov. 10, 1975, the freighter broke apart and sank in a storm on Lake Superior, en route from Duluth, Minn. to Detroit, taking all 29 crew members down with it.

The song, Lightfoot said, was not originally intended to be a single.

“It was a folk song,” he said. “But the record company, Warner Brothers, liked it, and their promotions company in Detroit said it was getting a good response for the song in the area. It had a series of very long instrumentals, and we were able to shorten those to have it work as a single. We got it down from 6:15 to 4:15.”

The song hit No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Lightfoot’s second-biggest single in the United States (after “Sundown“).

“I was happy and sad all at once,” Lightfoot said. “I said to myself, 'This will certainly be a shot in the arm for me and my band and all of us.’ But I’m sorry that it had to come around this way (because of the tragedy). But I also got to know some of the people, stay in touch with the Mariners’ Church in Detroit, the ladies committee (made up of relatives of the crew) in Madison, Wis.”

He still sings the ballad at memorials commemorating the lost vessel and has also done work on behalf the Mariners’ Church in Detroit, referred to as the Maritime Sailors’ Cathedral in the song, where for years on the anniversary the church bell rang 29 times. (The bell still rings on the anniversary, but now commemorates all lives lost on the Great Lakes.)

“On the 10th anniversary, Gordon Lightfoot showed up, and most people didn’t know he was there,” the Rev. Richard W. Ingalls Jr., rector of the church, said in a telephone interview. “We had snuck him in before we opened up the doors, and he had his back to most of the congregation. He was in the second pew. At the point in the service when we normally had a choir member sing the ballad, he got out of the pew, turned around, sat down and sang the ballad, and you could hear a pin drop, people gasping, 'That’s Gordon Lightfoot.’ ”

Maritime enthusiasts credit him for helping to keep alive the memory of the tragedy.

“As time went by, especially after the first 10 years, the song has been really important,” said Thom Holden, director of the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center in Duluth. “The story may have started to fade had it not been for the song itself. And musically it’s a good song, the tune is one that is memorable, and the ballad brings in all of the Great Lakes.”

Contact Robert C. Lopez at 691-5091 or
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Old 06-13-2014, 08:43 PM   #2
Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 15,569
Default Re: Greensboro article

By Ryan Snyder

March 23, 2011 02:22
Lightfoot kicks off tour with two sets of humility, tenacity

No one familiar with Gordon Lightfoot would expect the legendary Canadian songwriter to ever ham it up on stage, particularly not while eulogizing his friend and lead guitarist of 40 years. On March 15 at the War Memorial Auditorium, in his first show since the passing of Terry Clements less than a month before, Lightfoot was pithy in his words, but with a poet’s soul. “A few weeks ago we lost a member of the family,” Lightfoot said without a crack in his voice. “Terry passed on to his reward.”

Then again, the 71-year-old Lightfoot has had a lot of practice dealing with the consequences of aging over the past decade. He nearly died from an aneurysm in 2002 and in late 2007, his manager of nearly 20 years passed away. A year after, his first guitarist Red Shea did as well. Lightfoot was even the target of his very own death hoax last year, a period when Clements’ own failing health was becoming more apparent. So what does one do when it becomes apparent that their featured sideman of four decades may no longer be able to perform their duties? Begin grooming contingencies, of course. Seconds after recognizing Clements, Lightfoot introduced to the half-capacity Greensboro crowd guitarist Carter Lancaster, the man taking over the seat to his left long occupied by Clements.

In their first show together, the band’s “new” lineup didn’t fully gel right away. The customarily toe-tapping “Cotton Jenny” sounded thin, even beside the gauzy show opener “Sweet Guinevere.” Throughout the first set, the compositions were quiet and compact, though the band did spring to life for “Never Too Close.” Lancaster in particular took the opportunity to assert his own sound, letting the vibrations of his strings bleed together a smidge to create an even sweeter backdrop for Lightfoot’s lyrics of disenchantment. The band seemed to be in a state of near-constant verbal and nonverbal communication, confirming cues and assignments, but maybe it was the audience’s reactions that were most self-affirming for the players. The breezy intro to “Sundown” drew a round of enthusiastic cheers and whistles from the mostly graying crowd, which seemed to have lit a spark in the band from there on.

A lot of attention from his fans has been directed towards Lightfoot’s diminishing vocal capabilities over the last few years. His once stout baritone (the one featured in the 30-second TV spots promoting this show) has waned to a fragile, almost nasally croon, like a father singing his children to sleep. It’s come to match his gaunt, yet elegant frame much more closely, but Lightfoot’s fading voice is not nearly the detriment it’s sometimes made out to be. It started becoming apparent on his 1998 release A Painter Passing Through, but his potent delivery of the album’s title track spoke of a man who’s become the embodiment of the fragility of the human condition. Every few lines in his lyrical reflection on aging ended with him reaching for a breath — as antimimetic as an expression can be — and ended with Lightfoot muttering a few words of encouragement to himself. The stalwart Lightfoot pressed forward, giving an affected “uhntwothreeföh” to lead into “Spanish Moss.”

He’s long held the reputation of being mildly curt and aloof when performing, focusing instead on the intensity of his songs and, subsequently, his stage presence. He’s still a commanding figure onstage, but as he’s aged, he engages his audience more frequently. He told the occasional joke, laid the premise for some songs (“Hangdog Hotel Room,” he says, reminds him of the time he used to hang with Jerry Jeff Walker), he talked of missing his children when they were taken to France for two years, and entertained requests. Repeated shouts for “Pony Man” were finally met by a willing, albeit vaguely skeptical Lightfoot. “You really want to hear ‘Pony Man,’” he said, as he fiddled with his capo to buy bassist Rick time to brief Lancaster on the nuances of the piece.

He opened his second set with his epic “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” the band as a whole seeming much more in tune and making the blemishes on Lightfoot’s voice not so outstanding. The songs suddenly became a little more drawn out and Lancaster’s solos occurred with greater frequency and feeling, remaining faithful to the sentiment instilled in them by Clements, but also drawing on his native bluesiness that shined through most in second set closer “Restless.”

Lightfoot may have lost a little in vocalization, but few rockers can retain the vigor of their youth into old age. While Lightfoot seemed to have chosen a more sedative path in his sound, there’s still an indelible sagacity that comes out in his every word that will never fade.

Gordon Lightfoot kicks off his tour in Greensboro as new guitarist Carter Lancaster looks on. (photo by Ryan Snyder)
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