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Old 10-18-2011, 04:31 PM   #1
charlene
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Default Writing GORDON LIGHTFOOT - book excerpt

http://www.mcclelland.com/catalog/di...4&view=excerpt

Writing Gordon Lightfoot
The Man, the Music, and the World in 1972
Written by Dave Bidini
Category: Biography & Autobiography - Composers & Musicians
Format: Hardcover, 288 pages
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
ISBN: 978-0-7710-1262-4 (0-7710-1262-4)

Pub Date: October 18, 2011
Price: $29.99

Hey, Gord. Or Gordon. Or Mr. Lightfoot. No, I’m going to call you Gord, and I hope that’s okay. You don’t know me, but I know you. We all know you. You’re in our heads. You’re in the walls of our hearts. Your melodies hang and swerve over the great open skies and soupy lakes and long highways and your lyrics are printed in old history and geography and humanities textbooks that get passed down from grade to grade to grade. When people say “Lightfoot,” it’s like saying “Muskoka” or “Gretzky” or “Trudeau.” I dunno. “Lightfoot.”

Your name says as much as these things, maybe more. Gord, I am writing this book even though you won’t talk to me. It’s a long story, but this is a long book, so here goes. You won’t talk to me because of a song that my old band covered, a version of your nautical epic, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” Back in 1989, we contacted your late manager, Barry Harvey – a good guy; at least he was to us – to ask for approval, and he gave us his blessing. But then he said that he probably wouldn’t play our version of the song for you. What he actually said was, “If I play it for him, it’ll just piss him off.”

A few months later, something else happened, which is maybe the real reason why you won’t talk to me. You see, after coming home from a tour of Ireland – an ill-fated tour; we broke up there, only to re-form and record your song, though you probably wish we’d stayed broken up – a music writer asked about our rendition. Because I was young and dumb and feeling disappointed that you – one of my heroes – refused to recognize our interpretation of what is surely one of Canada’s most famous, and best, songs, I punked out. I told him that, “well, everyone knows that it’s based on an old Irish melody. It’s not his, not really.” What I didn’t tell the writer was that a guy in a bar in Cork had told me this, nor did I tell him that there were several beers involved – in Cork, Gord, this is a given. Later on, when Barry Harvey read what I’d said, he asked me to recant my statement. I might have just grunted and hung up the phone. Barry asked again and again, and, having grown a little older and less punked-out, I said I would, but then the story appeared on the Internet (the goddamned Internet). Barry was gentlemanly about the whole thing, but he said that I’d upset you, which is what I’d wanted to do, at least in the beginning, but not anymore. You were mad and I don’t begrudge you that feeling. After all, the same guy who’d desecrated your song had called you a phony, even if he hadn’t really meant it (Cork plus beer plus being rejected by one’s hero plus an encounter with a drunken storyteller equals impetuous rant. It’s a weak defence, I know, but it’s all I’ve got). I tried taking the story down, then forgot about it. Barry called a third time, then a fourth time, asking nicely. Then he passed away. And now I am writing a book about you. And you won’t talk to me.

Last year, when my publisher asked if I wanted to do this book, I explained the situation. He said, “Do it anyway,” and so we proceeded to figure out a way to create a book without the contribution of its central figure, which is you. At first, I thought about using stories that other people had told about you, but the biographical holes were too great (turns out you’re a bit of a mystery, Gord, although it’s not like you don’t know that). Then, as I started to look back through your life, I came across an event that I remembered reading about years ago in a Peter Goddard-edited seventies Toronto pop magazine called Touch. The event was Mariposa ’72. Because it was a great event – maybe one of the most important in Canadian musical and cultural history – I was given a starting point from which to talk about your life, without actually talking to you. I also thought it might be a way of telling the story of Canada. But I tried not to think too much about it. Instead, I just sat down and started writing.

Gord, I know you know all of this, but, at this point, I should tell the readers a few things. Okay. Readers: the 1972 Mariposa Folk Festival (the sixteenth year of the event) was unlike any that came before it. It took place on a small isthmus at the bottom of Toronto, on Centre Island, now the site of a popular kids’ amusement park. At the time, Mariposa was one of the most progressive festivals of its kind – only the Newport Folk Festival and a similar event in Philadelphia had better reputations – bringing attention to marginalized folk, blues, and traditional music. It steered clear of emerging chart music – pop and rock and even folk-rock – instead scheduling time for forgotten blues masters, Inuit throat singers, and local tubthumpers (Gord, I do not mean to disparage local folksingers by calling them “tub-thumpers,” but it’s kind of what they were. Still, I know that a lot of them are your friends, and I don’t need to piss you off any more than you already are). In 1971, excitement over the event resulted in ticketless fans swimming across the harbour to get to the island, further dissuading organizers from booking big-name talent for fear that the grassroots festival would lose its way. Such was their monastic commitment to a toned-down event that, in 1972, evening performances were cancelled, in keeping with the philosophy established by artistic director Estelle Klein, who, in 1972, was out of the country, holidaying in Greece and taking a break from the festival.

By 1972, the music scene had changed. In Toronto, it had moved from Yorkville’s coffee bar idyll to scabrous Yonge Street, with rock clubs being born every day alongside strip joints, pinball arcades, and gay taverns. These new places catered largely to the younger music fan, blessed by the drinking age in Ontario having been lowered, a year earlier, from twenty-one to eighteen. Also, because of 1971 federal legislation that required radio stations to play 33⅓ per cent Canadian music, the nation’s sonic palette widened and there was room for new bands driven by fuzz-toned guitarists and wild-haired singers who felt empowered after hearing themselves on the radio for the first time. The city’s musical culture moulted. New sounds were being heard everywhere. Everywhere, that is, except at the largest and most stubborn-minded music festival in Canada.

When Mariposa organizers sat down to program the playbill for that year’s festival, they pencilled in Murray McLauchlan and Bruce Cockburn as the de facto headliners. Gord, I’m sure that you would have headlined the festival had you not been suffering through your shittiest year ever. By ’72, you’d stopped touring, and you were dating Cathy Evelyn Smith, the same woman who’d conceived Levon Helm’s love child in the Seahorse Inn on Toronto’s southern Etobicoke lakeshore and who was later charged with murder in the speedball death of John Belushi. You had also suffered the first symptoms of Bell’s palsy during a performance at Massey Hall and, in 1971, had waged a trying battle with Grammy organizers, who demanded that you shorten “If You Could Read My Mind.” Anyway, because of your stasis, the responsibility for headlining the bill fell to two of your Yorkville proteges, both of whom, because of the new CanCon rules, had usurped a musical territory that, before the new law, had been almost exclusively yours. I don’t know if that cheesed you, Gord. I don’t even know whether, because you were lost in a deep fog of booze and drugs and pain, any of this registered. Maybe it did. It’s one of the things I hope to figure out.

part 2 to follow
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Old 10-18-2011, 04:31 PM   #2
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Anyway, what happened on that island that weekend was an unexpected confluence of the greatest songwriters of their age, each of them – like yourself – emerging from difficult times. That it happened in my city – in your city, in our city – puts me close to the memory, although I would have been way too young to go there myself. Because it’s one of these great events that hasn’t been written about, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Writers live for this sort of thing: an untold story. The same could be said for you, Gord. It’s been over thirty years since anyone wrote a book about you. It is time. Still, the ideas didn’t end there. After poring over newsprint and microfilm about Mariposa ’72 at the Toronto Reference Library and other places, I found that the story grew and grew. What I learned was that, over the seven days leading up to Mariposa, there occurred some of the era’s most memorable and profound moments in music, politics, sports, and culture, both at home and abroad. What happened from July 10 to July 17 eclipsed any single story, including your own. In Canada, the Canada–Russia hockey teams were announced; the largest jailbreak in Canadian history occurred at Kingston’s Millhaven penitentiary; and, through a combination of forces, Trudeau mania fell fast and hard. The summer of 1972 was also when The Rolling Stones staged one of the most important – and notorious – rock and roll tours ever, in support of their important and notorious album, Exile on Main Street. As it turns out, they were also in Toronto during the Mariposa weekend, playing two shows at Maple Leaf Gardens. Stevie Wonder opened and filmmaker Robert Frank and writer Truman Capote were in tow. On Sunday in Montreal, their equipment truck was bombed in a loading bay behind the Forum. Some said the separatists were responsible, but no one knows for sure.

World news of that week is also filled with remarkable events large and small, including the beginning of the Bobby Fischer–Boris Spassky chess summit and the journey of Pioneer 10 towards Jupiter. The week started with a total eclipse of the sun, and when the bells rang out on the evening of December 31, 1972, they ended the longest twelve months in history – three seconds having been added to international time – and something about music, something about Canada, and something about the world was different than it had been before. Gord, before I started writing, I talked to people who know you. I was given advice on how to handle the situation, which proved to be no advice at all. When I announced my intentions, some folks told me to steer clear. “Whatever you do, don’t park outside his house,” said one person. “The last guy who did this had his car pissed on by him. He’s a grumpy old man. He’ll never talk to you.” Others were more encouraging.

“Gord is a beautiful person,” said Dan Hill. “After Paul [Quarrington] died, he really helped me get through my period of grieving.” Eventually, I was left with two impressions. From what I gathered, you were either a loner or you were everybody’s good time. You were either a tough guy or a sweetheart who could break down at a moment’s notice. You were either a shit-kicking cowboy or an angel; a drunk or a saint. You’d either steal someone’s girlfriend or give him the shirt off your back. You were either Canada’s Townes Van Zandt or a Roger Whittaker wannabe in a plaid shirt. You were either hell on your band or loyal to a fault. You either loved Canada or had tried as hard as you could to get the hell out. Your small-town roots were either the driving force of your art, or the small, airless pepper box in which your life was confined. You were either here – showing up at Leafs games or attending industry banquets – or not here – disappearing to go on long canoe trips, or hiding out in a friend’s apartment in Detroit.

Because you won’t talk to me – I’ve called your record company a bunch of times, written emails, all of that, and still nothing – I decided to write you a letter, which, by now, is kind of obvious. I should also tell you that this book alternates between a letter to you and a description of the events of that week in ’72, leading up to Mariposa and a wild prose crescendo that will leave even the crustiest old critic lachrymose and braying from his knees.

There’s one other thing, Gord. It’s actually a big thing.

You see, in the letter sections, I’ve made stuff up. Some of it might have happened; some of it might not. Because you won’t talk to me, I’m left having to imagine your life. Because I’m a musician, too, I wanted to use all that I’ve seen and heard and done in my own rock and roll life to help piece together your story; to understand how you – a small-town choirboy – ended up creating this country’s most formidable body of song. The lawyers don’t want me to write this book, Gord. They think you will come and find me and drag this book down. My wife doesn’t want me to write it. She doesn’t want our car pissed on. But no artist ever did anything based on whether a lawyer liked their idea or not. Well, maybe some did, but not me.

Still, if you won’t talk to me, Gord, I’m going to talk to you. I mean, it wouldn’t be the first conversation that started without both people listening.

So, okay, Gord.

I’ll start.
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Old 10-18-2011, 05:00 PM   #3
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I don't know...but I don't have a good feeling about this. I don't like the idea of someone who says "I've made stuff up" to fill in holes. The book is listed partially as an autobiography, even though it clearly isn't. While I'd welcome a look at Gordon in 1972; I just want the facts, not conjecture. Gordon is mad at this guy for a reason.
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Old 10-18-2011, 06:08 PM   #4
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I pre-ordered his book, but I must say, I don't like his tone whatsoever. What an ego.
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Old 10-18-2011, 06:59 PM   #5
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Oh my God! What a pompus ass! Gets his nose all out of joint because Gord won't bend over with is hands in the air saying "I'm not worthy..I'm not worthy." Get over yourself..what a self important little piss ant! Boycott this "book" at all costs!
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Old 10-18-2011, 08:32 PM   #6
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I've pre-ordered this book also. Hope I don't regret it.
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Old 10-19-2011, 06:54 AM   #7
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Yikes.... I wouldn't call it a "good start" for ANY kind of book about Lightfoot.

I think I'll pass on this one...
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Old 10-19-2011, 08:47 AM   #8
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I'll buy it. I like the tone. As much as I admire Gordon Lightfoot, being an artistic loner of sorts, I can surmise that he's rarely had anyone to call him on bullsh*t. That's why the Beatles were better than their solo work -- they had each other to keep it all in check for a while. All in all, I think it's fine to say,"Gordon, we love ya, but sometimes ya irritate the crap out of us!". Kinda like family, which after many decades we all pretty much feel about artists that touch us deeply. But it can't me gushy hero worship...love 'em warts and all, and forgive, and celebrate.
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Old 10-19-2011, 10:00 AM   #9
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Default Re: Writing GORDONLIGHTFOOT - book excerpt

It's actually a good book, but of course that is a matter of opinion. Make no mistake about it (pun intended), Dave Bidini has great love and respect for Lightfoot. He wasn't able to make contact with him, so - with his publisher's blessing - he wrote the book without talking to the "lead character", and wove that into the fabric of the book. If you are looking for a full biography of Lightfoot, this isn't it. Yes, there is "fiction", but Bidini always lets you know when he is weaving tales. For biogaphical information, he uses material published previously, and some of it is about Lightfoot's personal life - always a tricky subject. And he interviewed people who know Lightfoot, or crossed paths with him in the music business (like Dan Hill, quoted in the excerpt above). But, for fans like us, who have read the other accounts and understand the sources quoted (like ex-wives and ex-girlfriends), it's easy to put those accounts in perspective. Frankly, I laughed out loud at many of the stories, and marveled at the artistry Bidini exhibited in weaving 3 stories into one good book. I read it in 3 days, and for me that's pretty amazing, as I normally have no time for reading. I couldn't put it down.

I fear that Lightfoot won't like it, but frankly it doesn't say much about his personal life that wasn't said previously, and the love and admiration of Bidini, himself a gifted musician, shine through every page.

Regarding the classification as "autobiography", that isn't what it means. The classification is for books that are either biographies or autobiographies.

PS: My full review is posted at my web site here: Writing Gordon Lightfoot Review.

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Old 10-19-2011, 10:46 AM   #10
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Depending on the weather I may attend the book launch on Thursday night in TOronto.

This is Bidini's 10th book. He has written about music and hockey, had a band "The Rheostatics" and now has "BidiniBand".

I find the approach of this book quite intriguing. The facts of those times and people have been written but as fans of any artist know there are many details we are not privy to. Taking a seminal event in time to anchor a secondary story and tell ones own personal take on them in the form of 'writing/talking' to the main character is very interesting. Whether I like what I read because some of the blanks have been filled in with conjecture/fantasy has yet to be determined because I haven't read the book.

Dave's been upfront about his 'relationship' with Lightfoot and how that has played out over the years and how Lightfoot has reacted to him. Because Lightfoot may still be pissed off with what has occurred is interesting in itself but won't influence whether I like the book or not.
I, personally have written many actual notes/letters/cards to Lightfoot over the last 40 years, several were well before my present relationship (LOL) with him. I well remember many times back in the day wondering if he had received them and if he had would he then respond. When there was no response I wondered why not (duh) but always felt that he was thankful for them. How could someone who wrote such beautiful musical poetry not be a thankful sort of person deep in his soul? Delusional? Perhaps..
Years later I would come to know how he felt. I would hear it from the man himself.

Like all of us I've wondered about his 'real' life, what his days are like, what his opinion are about things other than loving the Toronto Maple Leafs, what his regrets are, what he would do over if given the chance, his greatest highs, his deepest lows. We've formed our opinions about him from various sources, from the perspective of our own lives, some may be true, others patently wrong. For his own reasons he chose to not participate in the writing of this book. The author, wanting to write about music, Mariposa and Lightfoot had to choose between not writing the book or trying it this way with his own imaginings and conjecture actually written down and published. That's pretty brave as far as I'm concerned, putting it 'out there' to be critiqued by not only the reading public but the subject (his hero) of the book and it takes some serious soul searching about whether it's worth it or not. Such is the life of a writer I guess. I don't think it makes him pompous tho.

We all have our own 'conjectures' about the wherefor and why of Lightfoot..We just don't write a book about them and for the most part we avoid dwelling on the 'controversial.'

Is it true that much of the man is truly separate from the music yet much is in the music?
Only he knows that answer and he obviously likes it that way. I think he finds it all quite perplexing and mystifying why anyone gives a shit or not. But I think he also understands that human nature being what it is means this won't be the last book written about his life and his musical legacy. Perhaps that's better than being ignored. Perhaps it will be the impetus for him to write his own story. Perhaps.
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Old 10-19-2011, 12:04 PM   #11
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It seems to me that Dave, the author, finds himself in a peculiar and painful sort of prison. He felt rejected by his musical hero, and in his anger, lashed out at him, something it sounds like he now, with more maturity and perspective, regrets having done. The problem is, he didn't simply say that he didn't like a particular song. He accused Gord of plagiarism, which, as a writer, is the worst thing that can be said of you. And then he didn't take advantage of the opportunities he had to recant his statement. So I can understand why Gordon would be disinclined to speak with him now, although forgiveness is always a good thing, and it would be wonderful for everyone involved if that could somehow occur.

When I wrote my first column about Gordon, I actually worried about what would happen if he read it and was somehow offended by something I had written, even though it was very complimentary in tone. I imagined how I would feel if I had to go through life knowing I had upset a person I greatly admired, because that seemed like a terrible burden to bear. When it turned out that he had in fact enjoyed and appreciated the article, I almost felt more relieved than happy. (Almost.)

Dave seems like a talented writer, and the subject matter is, of course, fascinating. His approach is very creative. But I have the feeling that this is not going to be an easy read, that there could be painful parts for everyone. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.
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Old 10-19-2011, 01:31 PM   #12
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It certainly will be interesting, on so many levels. We can't always make everyone happy.
Lightfoot himself has written words/lyrics that were true to him at the time but has since changed them after finding that they no longer work for some people.

For me life is about changes, growing and accepting what is. It's not always pleasant but it sure keeps you on your toes..
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Old 10-19-2011, 02:46 PM   #13
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I have skimmed the book and one thing that troubles me is no end of references to Cathy Smith, especially near the end of the book. I would expect some reference to her, especially given the time frame, but it seems odd that she is mentioned so frequently and at such length.
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Old 10-19-2011, 03:57 PM   #14
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Petulance + arrogance = narcissism.

I personally wouldn't give you a pinch of piddle for his book.
And...if he parked in front of my house, I'd piss on his car, and of course, I'd apologize later when it suited me.
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Old 10-19-2011, 05:34 PM   #15
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Ouch !!!!! Don't think the tone of his writing will do anything to help the past situation with him and Gordon.

After reading some of the responses, not sure if I'll run out and buy this book yet - may wait and see how the overall tone of the Corfidians turns out.

I asked Gordon a few years ago if he was ever going to write his autobiography. His response was, " You get to a point where it just doesn't matter anymore."

From that I gather that it probably won't happen.

Hopefully, I'm wrong.
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Old 10-19-2011, 09:04 PM   #16
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this book could rival this cover (on the self indulgent scale)


If you go to iTunes you can hear their live album version. Worse

putting a famous guy's name (instead of Mariposa 1972) in the title of your book seems like a cunning way to sell books. Maybe there will be a sequel: Being Gordon Lightfoot.

if I received a free copy of the boll, I might make it through it

I still haven't got through his cover of the Wreck....

a note/correction: i believe the amusement park existed on centre island sometime before Mariposa did


I thought Gord himself said the Wreck melody came from an old Irish tune/dirge... as CRT was patterned off the Gibson trilogy..and the Sundown hook was lifted from a Whitney song
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Old 10-19-2011, 09:22 PM   #17
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Doesn't sound far off the song stylings I've heard of other iconic songs when I played nightclubs. I'm mean really...whatcha gonna do?! Be a pale imitation of the original? One of those sad saps singing James Taylor, or John Denver trying to sound like them?
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Old 10-19-2011, 10:01 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill View Post
Doesn't sound far off the song stylings... of other iconic songs
In the clubs out here you still hear them paying homage to the melody or chord progressions. I'd probably rather have sweet baby james or take me home country roads recited to me by Shatner

Gord strikes me as highly irritable. Bidini as highly irritating.

Dave should do his Wreck cover and read from his book at next Hughs Room tribute. The Saturday night that Gord's usually there. That'd be good fun!

Fyi: This is Dave speaking at a Rush induction:
http://www.rheostatics.ca/bidini/mp3/rushathall.mp3

Last edited by jj; 10-19-2011 at 10:04 PM.
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Old 10-19-2011, 10:31 PM   #19
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Unfortunately for the Hugh's Room Lightfoot tribute shows in January 2012 Lightfoot will be out on tour...

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Old 10-19-2011, 10:56 PM   #20
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Val's take on the book..http://gordonlightfoot.com/WritingGo...t-Review.shtml
shes right about the pics-they are great pics by Usherson...Having read some of Dave's other books and I've enjoyed his writing quite a lot. I read his daily columns in the National Post as well and like his storytelling style. I've been in touch with him for quite some time and I do know he is a huge Lightfoot fan. Being a professional musician as well as an accomplished and acclaimed writer makes the blending of both genres seem to be something he can pull together in writing this book.
I've been intrigued since the day he told me about the book he was going to write.
If the weather holds out tomorrow I will probably head to the book launch tomorrow night..
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Old 10-20-2011, 08:03 AM   #21
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Default Re: Writing GORDONLIGHTFOOT - book excerpt

I do hope the weather gods are with you, Char. I'd love to go to that book launch, and would have driven the 6 3/4 hours from Saratoga. But driving from Colorado would have been a bit much. I kept hoping I'd have a good excuse to go east now, but alas nothing presented itself.

If you do go, please tell us about it!
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Old 10-20-2011, 08:30 AM   #22
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If I go I shall certainly tell you about it..I got my copy sometime yesterday I guess but just discovered it on the front porch this morning. I popped it open and read a page or two and a familiar name popped out at me..good grief..
lol
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Old 10-20-2011, 09:58 AM   #23
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For those who missed the thread discussing York University acquiring the Mariposa archives, you will have fun browsing the pics and reading summaries from each year.

Not many pics fir 1972 here at this link
http://archives.library.yorku.ca/exh.../mariposa/1972

I wonder if Larry McLean allowed his collection of slides and negatives to be used in the book....what happens at a book launch anyhow? Music performance or reading from book, autographs, free donuts, that sort of thing?

It's perhaps been as wet the past few days here as it was for the '72 swamp fest!
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Old 10-20-2011, 10:42 AM   #24
charlene
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Default Re: Writing GORDONLIGHTFOOT - book excerpt

http://allevents.in/Beaumont/writing...20913371302474
No pics from McLean...

previous USHERSON thread @ http://www.corfid.com/vbb/showthread...light=usherson
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Old 10-20-2011, 10:50 AM   #25
loveabiggibson
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Default Re: Writing GORDONLIGHTFOOT - book excerpt

Oh man, that is a PAINFUL version of that song. Ouch.
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