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Old 02-07-2022, 02:18 PM   #1
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Default News-Post article-Feb.3,2022

By Gary Bennett Special to The News-Post
Feb 3, 2022 It’s difficult to overstate the impact Gordon Lightfoot had on popular music in the 1970s. Along with artists such as James Taylor, John Denver, Harry Chapin and Jim Croce, he came to embody the sensitive, singer-songwriter movement of that decade.

He is perhaps the most accomplished musician of that group. In his day, he was widely regarded as a first-rate 12-string guitarist, top-notch writer of both music and lyrics that attracted the attention of music giants including Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Barbara Streisand and Glen Campbell, and a near nonstop live performer. Unlike many pop artists, Lightfoot actually reads music, arranges his songs and scores them.

Lightfoot makes his first appearance in Frederick on Feb. 10 at the Weinberg Center for the Arts. Limited tickets are still available. He was actually scheduled to appear in August but was forced to cancel due to a minor hand injury. He is in the early stages of a 44-date tour spanning December to June that will take him up and down the East Coast and Midwest. He is backed by his longtime four-piece band.

Lightfoot is now 83 years old and not what he once was, of course. His rich, distinctive baritone voice that took listeners on exotic adventures and let them in on the most personal of secrets has been replaced by a raspy, reedy vocal that nevertheless imparts a truthfulness that’s not always apparent in music today. If ever there was an artist not named McCartney who should be allowed a valedictory final curtain call late in life, it is Lightfoot.

His songs have a timeless quality to them. Several topped the charts in the ‘70s. He gained wide recognition in the ‘60s as a writer for others with songs such as “For Lovin’ Me,” “Early Morning Rain,” “Steel Rail Blues” and “Ribbon of Darkness” — a No. 1 country hit in 1965 for Marty Robbins. But it wasn’t until the unforgettable 1970 ballad “If You Could Read My Mind” that chronicles the sad ending of his first marriage that Lightfoot established himself as confident singer of his own material.

My wife and I saw Lightfoot in concert at Wolf Trap in Virginia in 2016 and “Mind” stoked the most heartfelt sing-along I’ve ever heard at a concert. Lightfoot commented, “Nobody dreamed it would become a hit; the album [“Sit Down Young Stranger”] was out seven or eight months before the song emerged, and I was glad it did. It’s about peace through acceptance. It’s stood the test of time, about 30 years, and I never get tired of doing it.”

In 1974 through 1976 Lightfoot unleashed a string of four consecutive No. 1 folk-rock songs that put him in the same echelon as Elton John, John Denver and Barry Manilow in public consciousness. Lightfoot and his band knew that “Sundown” would be a No. 1 hit when they recorded it in 1974. Sultry and bluesy, it tells the story of unrequited love with some infidelity thrown in for good measure. Lightfoot sings, “Sundown, you better take care, if I find you’ve been creepin’ ‘round my back stair.”

The follow up to “Sundown,” “Carefree Highway” vividly tells the story of “Ann” that Lightfoot says “knocked me out when I was about 20 and then left me standing there.” He escapes her memory on this carefree highway.

Then came “Rainy Day People” in early 1975, which seems to be about those friends you can always count on to provide a shoulder to cry on and sympathetic ear to tell your troubles to but is really about, according to Lightfoot, “the person waiting in the wings for a relationship to subside, so he can move in.”

In 1976, Lightfoot delivered what is perhaps his most famous but least likely No. 1 hit song, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” He read a Newsweek article in the fall of ’75 about the shipwreck of this huge freighter on Lake Superior. A slide guitar provides the haunting sound of melancholy and despair the song calls for. The intricate wording and storytelling bring to mind an Irish sea chantey. Incredibly, it is documented the song was laid down in just one take with all the lights of the studio dimmed except for Lightfoot’s scribbled lyrics. Lightfoot says “I’m proud it’s been written. It’s been a very educational and interesting experience, for sure. I have gotten to meet a lot of the people who were related to the men on the Edmund Fitzgerald; periodically they have functions, which I attend whenever I can. It’s been a real-life experience for me.”

If you only know Lightfoot for his huge hits, treat yourself and listen to two fairly obscure but incredibly beautiful love songs. “Song for a Winter’s Night” is folk-rock at its best, telling the story of unrequited love set in the dead of winter with snow lightly falling, windowpanes iced over, an empty glass and forlorn love letter. “Beautiful,” on the other hand, tells the story of love fulfilled with an economy of words and simple melody that is almost breathtaking. He makes a point to always sing this song in concert.

His impressive discography includes 19 studio albums, three live albums, 16 greatest hits albums and 46 singles. He has sold more than 10 million albums worldwide.

Lightfoot was born near Toronto in 1938. He began his career by fronting various rock ’n’ roll bands around Toronto when he was still a teenager. At 20, he relocated to Los Angeles, where he took classes in music school and wrote jingles for TV commercials. He returned to Toronto in 1962 where he became a fixture in the city’s folk music scene. He wrote successfully for others and then signed his own record deal in 1966. In the late 1960s, he scored several minor hits on the Canadian pop charts before striking it big in the ‘70s.

Lightfoot has not had an easy life. Like many artists, he has battled substance abuse. In his case, it was alcohol that nearly derailed his career. He also suffered through a couple of health scares. In 1972, he was stricken with facial paralysis when he contracted Bell’s Palsy. In 2002, he suffered a near fatal ruptured abdominal aortic aneurism. He spent six weeks in a coma, endured four surgeries and two years of extensive rehabilitation. In 2006 he suffered a minor stroke that limited use of his right hand that he has since regained. A heavy smoker since age 15, Lightfoot also has emphysema.

Among Lightfoot’s honors include five Grammy nominations, 17 Juno Awards (Canada’s Grammy equivalent), induction into the U.S. and Canadian Songwriter’s Hall of Fame and Officer of the Order of Canada. He even appears on a Canadian postage stamp.

Lightfoot is reportedly worth about $40 million, so he certainly doesn’t need to be on the road as much as he is. But he remains singularly focused on the stage and vows to continue performing as much as he is able for his faithful fans.

“I’m 82 years of age now [now 83],” he said. “That feels very important to me. If health permits, I’m happy just to be able to continue to perform in one way or another.”
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Old 02-07-2022, 02:58 PM   #2
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Default Re: News-Post article-Feb.3,2022

Thanks for posting this. Covered a lot in a short piece.

A minor hand injury, huh? Wow, you Canadians are tough. If Gord played hockey, I guess he'd have been back out there for the third period.
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