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Old 08-29-2001, 08:18 AM   #1
charlene
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August 17, 2001

Seeing the Light
By Kirk Baird
LAS VEGAS SUN

In the late '60s and early '70s, few folk singers/songwriters experienced the success of Gordon Lightfoot.

Born and raised in Canada, Lightfoot, 62, has a number of hit singles to his credit, including "If You Could Read My Mind," "Sundown" and "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," the true story of an ore ship that sank in Lake Superior on Nov. 10, 1975.

As the pressure for continued success mounted, however, Lightfoot began drinking more and more -- a problem that not only took its toll on his career, but also his health.

Sober and married -- with two young children -- Lightfoot plays nearly 60 shows a year, including three nights at the Orleans Showroom beginning Friday, with his longtime band.

In an interview with the Sun from his home in Toronto, Canada, Lightfoot discussed his early days in music, what inspired him to write about the Edmund Fitzgerald and his place today in the music business.

Sun: In the early days you were considered a country artist, then you moved into folk music. How did that transformation occur?

Gordon Lightfoot: I had an opportunity to get into some recording sessions that were organized by Chet Atkins through a Canadian guy here by the name of Art Snyder, who was one of the pioneers of the Canadian recording industry. I went down to Nashville and joined a bunch of great musicians lined up by Chet Atkins. I recorded a couple of tunes and I came out sounding like a cross between Pat Boone and Jim Reeves. At least, that's the vibe I was getting.

At the same time, I was trying to get more proficient with the guitar and I was looking at the folk revival and got interested in Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan and I wanted to become part of that. So I took myself out of the Nashville scene by 1961. I'd been there and done it ... I felt that I wanted to get into the folk revival. So, all through the '60s, that's what I did. I played coffee houses and eventually got a manager in New York. I got a recording contract in the United States and later on with Warner Bros.

Sun: I read that Bob Dylan changed things for you.

GL: The thing I admired about Bob was his work ethic. He really likes to work a lot, and he's made a lot of really great records, in the consistency of the material and everything. Through all his ups and downs, it's been really amazing.

He inspired me in that way, in making it a mission. It really does amount to a mission almost.

Sun: Of all your songs, which stands as your favorite?

GL: The one with the greatest meaning and one of the best ones is "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."

That song has been a commitment (for me) through all of these years. Among the events that I attend either by myself or members of my band sometimes, we support a scholarship at the Maritime Academy in Traverse City, Mich. It's my way of showing my worth.

Sun: And why is that?

GL: I wanted to prove my worth. I didn't just want to write the song; that was one of the songs that kept my career going at that particular time. We put the scholarship in effect in 1976 or 1977, and it's been in effect ever since.

Sun: What inspired you to write that song?

GL: I had a melody, I had some chords and then I had a story. It was on TV three hours after it happened up in Toronto. The wind was still blowing in Toronto at that time. It just inspired me to do it. I went and got the newspaper articles, I went and bought the Toronto Telegram and the Toronto Star and read up on it. I saw an article in Newsweek magazine on it and took it from there.

Sun: There have been numerous submarine and diving expeditions to visit the ship. Would you ever consider going along on one?

GL: There's no way now. My lungs would not handle it.

Sun: In the '70s and early '80s you developed a drinking problem. Why was that?

GL: It was something that I did all my life and it finally caught up to me with my health. I started to feel my career was skipping away from me. My record company knew about it. My sister tried to help me -- she was working for me at that time. I was going through a split-up with the person I was engaged to. And I started getting sick.

Sun: This was in 1982?

GL: Yeah. So, I found a doctor and I quit.

Sun: It seems that you're one of those musicians who people may recognize their name but cannot place their music, or vice versa.

GL: I've encountered that before.

Sun: Does that lack of recognition bother you?

GL: No. As long as it pays the bills, I'll do it.

Sun: After more than 40 years of being a musician, has there ever been a time in your career when you thought it was time to move on?

GL: There was once or twice when I thought that -- maybe in the mid-'80s. Then I started reading in the media I was thinking about retiring. I very quickly got away from that topic. I would like to continue. We all feel very fortunate to still be able to participate and have our place in the totem pole, as I like to say.

Sun: Where would that place be?

GL: Somewhere in the middle I hope. That would be fine by me.

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Old 08-29-2001, 08:18 AM   #2
charlene
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Printable text version | Mail this to a friend

Search terms highlighted: gordon lightfoot


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
August 17, 2001

Seeing the Light
By Kirk Baird
LAS VEGAS SUN

In the late '60s and early '70s, few folk singers/songwriters experienced the success of Gordon Lightfoot.

Born and raised in Canada, Lightfoot, 62, has a number of hit singles to his credit, including "If You Could Read My Mind," "Sundown" and "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," the true story of an ore ship that sank in Lake Superior on Nov. 10, 1975.

As the pressure for continued success mounted, however, Lightfoot began drinking more and more -- a problem that not only took its toll on his career, but also his health.

Sober and married -- with two young children -- Lightfoot plays nearly 60 shows a year, including three nights at the Orleans Showroom beginning Friday, with his longtime band.

In an interview with the Sun from his home in Toronto, Canada, Lightfoot discussed his early days in music, what inspired him to write about the Edmund Fitzgerald and his place today in the music business.

Sun: In the early days you were considered a country artist, then you moved into folk music. How did that transformation occur?

Gordon Lightfoot: I had an opportunity to get into some recording sessions that were organized by Chet Atkins through a Canadian guy here by the name of Art Snyder, who was one of the pioneers of the Canadian recording industry. I went down to Nashville and joined a bunch of great musicians lined up by Chet Atkins. I recorded a couple of tunes and I came out sounding like a cross between Pat Boone and Jim Reeves. At least, that's the vibe I was getting.

At the same time, I was trying to get more proficient with the guitar and I was looking at the folk revival and got interested in Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan and I wanted to become part of that. So I took myself out of the Nashville scene by 1961. I'd been there and done it ... I felt that I wanted to get into the folk revival. So, all through the '60s, that's what I did. I played coffee houses and eventually got a manager in New York. I got a recording contract in the United States and later on with Warner Bros.

Sun: I read that Bob Dylan changed things for you.

GL: The thing I admired about Bob was his work ethic. He really likes to work a lot, and he's made a lot of really great records, in the consistency of the material and everything. Through all his ups and downs, it's been really amazing.

He inspired me in that way, in making it a mission. It really does amount to a mission almost.

Sun: Of all your songs, which stands as your favorite?

GL: The one with the greatest meaning and one of the best ones is "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."

That song has been a commitment (for me) through all of these years. Among the events that I attend either by myself or members of my band sometimes, we support a scholarship at the Maritime Academy in Traverse City, Mich. It's my way of showing my worth.

Sun: And why is that?

GL: I wanted to prove my worth. I didn't just want to write the song; that was one of the songs that kept my career going at that particular time. We put the scholarship in effect in 1976 or 1977, and it's been in effect ever since.

Sun: What inspired you to write that song?

GL: I had a melody, I had some chords and then I had a story. It was on TV three hours after it happened up in Toronto. The wind was still blowing in Toronto at that time. It just inspired me to do it. I went and got the newspaper articles, I went and bought the Toronto Telegram and the Toronto Star and read up on it. I saw an article in Newsweek magazine on it and took it from there.

Sun: There have been numerous submarine and diving expeditions to visit the ship. Would you ever consider going along on one?

GL: There's no way now. My lungs would not handle it.

Sun: In the '70s and early '80s you developed a drinking problem. Why was that?

GL: It was something that I did all my life and it finally caught up to me with my health. I started to feel my career was skipping away from me. My record company knew about it. My sister tried to help me -- she was working for me at that time. I was going through a split-up with the person I was engaged to. And I started getting sick.

Sun: This was in 1982?

GL: Yeah. So, I found a doctor and I quit.

Sun: It seems that you're one of those musicians who people may recognize their name but cannot place their music, or vice versa.

GL: I've encountered that before.

Sun: Does that lack of recognition bother you?

GL: No. As long as it pays the bills, I'll do it.

Sun: After more than 40 years of being a musician, has there ever been a time in your career when you thought it was time to move on?

GL: There was once or twice when I thought that -- maybe in the mid-'80s. Then I started reading in the media I was thinking about retiring. I very quickly got away from that topic. I would like to continue. We all feel very fortunate to still be able to participate and have our place in the totem pole, as I like to say.

Sun: Where would that place be?

GL: Somewhere in the middle I hope. That would be fine by me.

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Old 08-30-2001, 10:51 AM   #3
SilverHeels
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thanks for posting that interview, Char.
For a man who does not particularly enjoy being interviewed, our Gord is sure giving some great ones lately!
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