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Old 02-09-2019, 02:42 PM   #1
Join Date: May 2000
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Default FORBES magazine interview-Feb.2019

Q&A: Songwriting Legend Gordon Lightfoot On Being Timeless, Dylan And More
Steve Baltin


A songwriting legend, Canadian national treasure Gordon Lightfoot is a refreshing throw back in so many respects. When I start discussing his upcoming tour with Lightfoot, who turned 80 this past November 17, he begins searching for his calendar to confirm the dates.

He isn't referring to an app or digital calendar. Lightfoot doesn't own a cell phone. That is fitting for a man though whose songs, at their essence, are timeless. You don't need production tricks, auto tune or overdubbing to appreciate the profound simplicity of Lightfoot classics like "If You Could Read My Mind," "Sundown," "Carefree Highway" and many more.

Just ask everyone from Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Johnny Cash to Sarah McLachlan and Eric Clapton, all of whom have covered Lightfoot's songs. In the highest praise a troubadour can receive, Dylan once famously said of Lightfoot, who he called a mentor, "I can't think of any Gordon Lightfoot song I don't like. Every time I hear a song of his, it's like I wish it would last forever."

Lightfoot estimates that when he tours he has 15 standards that comprise the core of his 26-song sets. And he adds and mixes up the songs around those classics. He may have more songs to add next year as he is working on his first new album since 2004's Harmony.

After nearly dying in the early part of the 2000's, Lightfoot, who says proudly he goes to the gym on a regular routine, is feeling optimistic and healthy. That is his spirit when we speak for this rare interview with a true legend.

Steve Baltin: Talk about this upcoming tour and how you keep things fresh. For example, does playing new venues excite you?

Gordon Lightfoot: Yeah, we try to put a couple in there. We try to make sure we get a couple of fresh places that you're speaking of. Like I don't remember playing Santa Clarita, I may have played there. That's a little town in California. It really doesn't matter if it's new or the old. I've done the one [the Grove] in Anaheim four or five times. It's a great spot to play. It's really one of the highlights. We've got an interesting couple of nights in Las Vegas too, where we're playing in a hall there, which is a part of the old Hilton complex there. That sounds like a lot of fun, couple of nights in there. We close off this tour with Phoenix. The ensemble itself is five people and we actually are able to play in any kind of a configuration that is required from hockey arenas, which we do in some of the areas, some fairly large venues.

Baltin: Are there songs you are excited to do you haven't done in a while or songs you hear differently after so much time?

Lightfoot: Well, "If You Could Read My Mind," for instance, feels different every time I play it. I don't know why that is, but it's just that kind of a song. It has a life of its own. Every time I play it the message comes through in a different way. We affect people quite rhythmically as well as emotionally. We get the feel going on certain tunes, just in the way we approach it. I do incorporate new stuff too. I go back and do research and find the ones that really, really work well with the crowd, with the audience and I try and put some of those in. But also I don't lose any of my standards. My standards are about maybe 15 tunes and about 26 tunes I do in a show. I would be able to rotate all the other stuff around that set of standards that have to be done each and every night. But the variety comes from the rotation of the material that goes around that core of standard material. "Sundown," "The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald," "Carefree Highway," "Don Quixote," "If You Could Read My Mind." I won't try to cover the lost, but there are about 15 of them. And every night those songs muse be part of the show. And my shows works in a time frame too. I do the same length of show each and every night. I don't drag it out. I like to be courteous. I realize that there are people who have probably never heard me before who might have said, "Hey, come on down, check out Lightfoot with me." And they're usually quite impressed, I get the after effects on a lot of them (laughs). We hear, "Gee, we were really surprised. We really enjoyed the show." And that sort of thing. "I didn't know you wrote all those songs."

Baltin: What are those songs from other people you constantly rediscover and never get old for you?

Lightfoot: [Kris] Kristofferson "Sunday Morning Coming Down."
Which song do I really love by Bob Dylan? There are so many. He's a huge influence on me actually, although my writing is nothing like his at all. It's totally different, And yet he was such a huge influence on me. I'd have to go back to "Blowin' In The Wind," I'm just gonna go standard with this guy. Peter, Paul And Mary actually gave me my start. They were the first people to record one of my tunes. It was released as a single and made it up to number five on the Billboard charts. It was called "For Lovin' Me." That was in 1965.

Baltin: How do you keep fit to stay on the road?

Lightfoot: I spend my time writing and I have an exercise program too. I've been doing it for years and years, since about 1980. I try and stay in condition to do this work. I like to stay in condition while doing it. There's a price for everything, so with me I gotta go to the club and I gotta go to the gym and I don't care, I do it.

Baltin: You say there's a price you pay, but look at the payoff. Could you have ever imagined you'd still be touring and making music at 80?

Lightfoot: It is unreal when you really think about it. But it feels like it was just yesterday when I was first starting out. I was an office worker. I went to music school. I was writing songs and I wanted to learn notation so I actually went to school to do that. I went to Westlake College in L.A. My parents were not rich either, but they let me go and I went. One of the first jobs I got is when I turned 21. I became a copyist, copying scores and, boy, that taught me a lot over a period of about a year. But it was hard work. We had a lot of TV variety, musical variety going on at that time and there were orchestras to write parts for. I used to write parts for the musicians from scores.

Baltin: Are there parts of literature that played a big influence on your writing and style?

Lightfoot: You could start naming the Greek poets like Homer and come through to Keats and Shelley, some of those guys. The one I'm really supposed to know is the guy who wrote all the stuff about the arctic, he wrote The Cremation Of Sam McGee. Robert Service. But then Leonard Cohen was one of my favorite poets. I started reading his poetry in 1967.

Baltin: Is there one artist you'd want to do a package tour with a la Stephen Stills and Judy Collins?

Lightfoot: If I ever wanted to do that who would it be? Our ensemble is capable of doing it. I've worked with opening acts, but when I'm going back I worked with other people at the beginning of my career. I guess I need to do it my own.
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Old 02-14-2019, 08:37 AM   #2
Andy T.
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Default Re: FORBES magazine interview-Feb.2019

Thanks for the latest batch of interview links. While Gord has in the last decade, seemed to be a bit more loose about interviews, at this time it takes on a little bit of heft in trying to build anticipation for a new release and not just the upcoming concert tour.
"May this world find a resting place... where Peaceful Waters flow..."
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Old 03-03-2019, 03:54 PM   #3
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Default Re: FORBES magazine interview-Feb.2019

Great interview. Thanks, Char, for posting!
I always find it interesting to hear Gord's thoughts on touring. He has such a great attitude about it. Yes, we know he "loves the work," but I think it's also important to him to keep giving to his fans. He knows we still want to see him and hear him, he knows we'll keep coming as long as he'll keep showing up and plugging the cord into the D18.

On an different note, I remember Gord always talking about losing the Song of the Year Grammy for 1976 to Barry Manilow. Gord was nominated for "The Wreck" and lost out to "I Write the Songs," which, of course, was recorded by Barry Manilow, but not written by him. I think it's interesting that, in 2 weeks, Gord will be in Vegas, playing in the "Barry Manilow Theater" at the Westgate Hotel. The Westgate Hotel is the former Las Vegas Hilton, where Elvis played for many years. So, while Elvis may have left the building (and the planet), Gord will soon be there, still going 80 years strong. I wonder if the ghost of Elvis will be on the front row when Gord sings Early Morning Rain? And, even though it's the "Barry Manilow Theater"........Gord does, actually, "......write the songs...."
Just sayin'.

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Old 03-03-2019, 08:05 PM   #4
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Default Re: FORBES magazine interview-Feb.2019

yes he does write the songs!! and I feel badly for ELVIS that he never got to meet Gordon Lightfoot in Buffalo all those years ago..
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