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Old 06-08-2010, 11:07 AM   #1
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Default Grand Rapids article-june 7, 2010

Why 71-year-old Gordon Lightfoot still enjoys touring
By Rachael Recker | The Grand Rapids Press
June 07, 2010, 5:42AM

Gordon LightfootGRAND RAPIDS — At 71, Gordon Lightfoot still is perfecting his music.

The five-time Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter and Canadian Music Hall of Famer — whose folk revival-based country/rock/pop songs such as “Sundown” and “If You Could Read My Mind” launched him into prominence in the ’60s and ’70s — stopped practicing in the music work room of his Toronto home for a recent interview with The Press.

“I usually practice in the evening after supper. It’s good to keep it up, because none of us is getting any younger,” Lightfoot said. “It’s good to practice.”

The music icon from Orillia, Ontario — whose music has been recorded by singers including Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Olivia Newton-John, Barbra Streisand and Sarah McLachlan — still performs about 70 shows a year.

He will bring his “fast” two-hour concert (with a 20-minute intermission) to DeVos Performance Hall on Friday. Accompanying Lightfoot and his capoed rhythm guitar will be his backup band: bassist Rick Haynes, keyboardist Mike Heffernan, drummer Barry Keane and lead guitarist Terry Clemens.

Lightfoot, a self-proclaimed “gym rat,” said band members rehearse individually or in pairs every week while not on tour to refine their material.

“Between those tours, you have to stay ready,” Lightfoot said. “We’re always trying to get absolute pitch on the instruments. That’s a hobby of ours. The people won’t notice that. But when that occurs, it has a wonderful sound to it when things are perfectly in tune.”

As for his voice this late in the game? Lightfoot flashes his sense of humor, as he will do during his music-heavy, banter-light concert featuring his hits, including “Shadows,” “Rainy Day People” and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” his song about the 1975 tragedy on Lake Superior.

“The voice is good. The voice is fine for an old guy,” he said, with a laugh. “’Cause I don’t use it too much. I never practice my singing. I just practice my guitar playing. So the only time I actually sing is when I come out to do the sound check in the afternoon of the show.”

After a five decades-plus career, one wonders why Lightfoot continues to tour throughout North America. Lightfoot references Clint Eastwood.

“They ask him why he’s still making pictures, and he says, ‘Because I enjoy the work.’ And I agree with him 100 percent on that one,” he said. “We’re very energetic. I’m not saying we jump all over the stage ... The whole (show) has a very energetic drive to it.”

While the concert focuses on his music, Lightfoot also tells the occasional story. And he has a lot of stories, like how his friend Bob Dylan and he almost recorded a duet together until Lightfoot canned the idea, noting his capoed style doesn’t fit with Dylan’s.

Plus, he doesn’t do duets.

“I guess I wanted my individuality to always maintain itself. I always wanted to be like an island, like an entity.”

He also remembers sitting in on a live studio session with Frank Sinatra and his 18-piece orchestra. After two minutes of attempting to cover “If You Could Read My Mind,” Lightfoot said Sinatra threw the score on the ground.

“He ... said (he) couldn’t sing this,” Lightfoot recalled. “I was happy that he even made the attempt. He didn’t even know I was there.”

Lightfoot also experienced his own “Elvis has left the building” moment.

“I remember when Elvis Presley recorded ‘Early Morning Rain’ that he was coming to Buffalo (Memorial Stadium) a few months later, and I was invited to go backstage and meet him.

“There were 18,000 people in the building. And before I could get backstage, five minutes after the show ended, a voice came over the central speaker saying ‘Elvis has left the building.’ I missed him.”

Though he never met him, Lightfoot said Presley’s cover of “Rain” was “the most amazing thing that ever happened to me.”

Presley also covered “For Lovin’ Me,” which Lightfoot admits he now “hates.”

“It’s the most chauvinistic song that I ever wrote in my entire career. And it taught me a lesson that I would never write another song like it as long as I lived.

“And yet it was a big song. Peter, Paul and Mary had a blast with that one.”

Gordon Lightfoot

When: 8 p.m. Friday

Where: DeVos Performance Hall, 303 Monroe Ave. NW

Tickets: $32.50-$67.50, DeVos Place and Van Andel Arena box offices, Ticketmaster outlets, 800-745-3000,

E-mail Rachael Recker: and follow her on Twitter at

© 2010 All rights reserved.
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Old 06-08-2010, 03:27 PM   #2
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Default Re: Grand Rapids article-june 7, 2010

Thanks for posting this -as usual, I love reading the promo interviews and Gordon's always adding something new/different. Sure would have loved to have heard Sinatra singing IYCRMM and I can't believe he couldn't get through it..that would have been great. I wonder what Gordon thought of Sinatra's 2-minute attempt?

I still get a chuckle out of the Elvis joke no matter how many times I've heard/read it, it's a classic.

This article though...I just grabbed on to "Like an Island" and have a verse or 2 and melody in my head I better get picking on my guitar now and see if I can get a song out of it.
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Old 06-08-2010, 10:41 PM   #3
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Default Re: Grand Rapids article-june 7, 2010

Alright, Pam! Island songs are all good. "Like and Island" sounds like a good title.

Last edited by Patti; 06-09-2010 at 03:05 PM.
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