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Old 11-23-2011, 10:17 AM   #1
Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 15,595
Default Vancouver newspaper interview
Gordon Lightfoot

Centre for Performing Arts

Sunday, 8 p.m.

Tickets: $86.25 (including fees)

It seems like a pretty simple way to begin. Cordial even.

How are you?

Then you remember: This is Gordon Lightfoot. And you are the media.

“You almost gave me up for dead there, a couple of years ago,” Lightfoot says with a laugh.

He is referring to that unfortunate incident last year when a report surfaced and was widely spread through the social-networking sphere that the legendary Canadian singer-songwriter had died. After much scrambling and more investigation, it was discovered that he was not dead. He was just at the dentist.

“It was an experience,” says the artist. “But I got my picture on the front page of the (Toronto Sun) the next day.”

For the record, Lightfoot is feeling very well, indeed. He celebrated his 73rd birthday on Thursday, and the much-decorated and beloved musician has now embarked on an extensive cross-country tour, which kicks off Sunday in Vancouver and makes its way east through mid-December. It’s a schedule that others might have found gruelling, but for Lightfoot, it’s something he’s enjoying, if not relishing.

“I think I am,” he says. “I’ve never had a problem with it, I’ve always enjoyed it, but I am now because I just couldn’t believe that I’d be doing it this long. It’s such a great thing, it’s such a privilege to be able to do it this long. I wondered back in the early years what would I be doing later and here we are. I tell my agent to stop sending us these dates.

“It’s really amazing, I can’t believe it.”

What makes it even more difficult to fathom, why he’s appreciating it so much — and, sadly, why the reports last year seemed plausible — was that in 2002 it seemed as if we’d lost one of this country’s greatest musical gifts, when Lightfoot was felled by a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm. He spent six weeks in a coma, then 3½ months in the hospital to close out the year.

But, remarkably, not only did he come out of it the scare okay, he also came out with his first new album in six years, Harmony.

He’d embarked on the recording process prior to his health issues, putting together rough demos and rehearsal tapes together for his band, and was about to hit the studio when he was struck. Rather than shelve the project, he had the band take the demos and add to them, bringing the results of what they’d done each day to him in his hospital bed, where he basically post produced the record while lying on his back.

“It took my mind of my condition, it was a wonderful thing. It kept me preoccupied all the time,” he says, before noting the final result is somewhat less than his perfectionism would normally have allowed.

“It’s not right where I’d like it to be. I would love to have been able to do it, it would have been really a great album if we could have recorded it.”

Unfortunate, then, that Harmony will probably stand as the end of Lightfoot’s songwriting career. When asked if he’s currently adding to a canon that has, over the past half-century, produced such enduring classics as the Canadian Railroad Trilogy, Early Morning Rain, Sundown, Rainy Day People and If You Could Read My Mind, the artist pauses.

“No. No, I’m not,” he says.

“I enjoy doing the shows. I’ve always been a performer and writing songs was like having material, like having songs to play for people. It’s such — in many ways — an isolating thing. At this stage in my life, there’s a lot of isolation involved in songwriting, and I just don’t want to be isolated like that.”

He cites time as also being a factor, noting the physical regime his health and recovery require take a great deal of time as does dealing with the business side of his career. But he also points to his family — “I have four grandkids and all that stuff,” he says — which he wants to focus on.

His brush with mortality is part of that, but there’s also a sense Lightfoot has a new perspective of what he’s lost over the years, while touring the world, pursuing a music career and isolating himself through his songwriting. He even acknowledges the writing for Harmony came when he was dealing with those costs.

“My second marriage was coming apart — maybe it was my own fault, I don’t know, maybe it was her fault, there was no infidelity involved in it. It was issues, that kind of coming apart,” he says reflectively.

That brief glimpse of the personal side of the man — one of few offered during a wide-ranging 30-minute interview — shows while his priorities may have changed, his need for privacy certainly hasn’t. Lightfoot has always been something of an enigma, wishing, instead, that his songs and his singing to do the speaking for him.

So notoriously private is he, that Canadian writer-musician Dave Bidini recently released a book Writing Gordon Lightfoot: The Man, The Music, and the World in 1972, which features fictional letters to Lightfoot, whose camp had turned down requests from Bidini to write a real biography.

“He’s one of many. We’re always being approached by people who want to do books,” says Lightfoot, noting the first he’d heard about Bidini’s published book was from some “guy at the gym.”

As to whether or not he’d ever say yes to someone, the right person, and unravel a rich life and history for fans and for posterity, Lightfoot’s reply is less certain than the songwriting one, allowing for a little wiggle room.

“The only person that could do a memoir would be me and that’s possible if I need to retire. I might. But now I would never have the time,” he says, before stating that even if he did, it’s doubtful it would satisfy those looking for something salacious.

“Probably I would not want to completely spill the beans,” he says. “That’s the kind of stuff they want, you know. There’s probably things I’d like to forget about. I don’t like to have to remind myself of everything I hate about myself. It’s highly unnecessary. I’m reformed. I’m doing my best, I’m trying hard, I don’t want to hurt a soul. I’m just a peace loving guy.”

He’s also a guy who would rather focus on what he still loves doing, which is performing live. Lightfoot says that should continue for years, as even when this tour comes to a close, the requests for more dates are many, spurred on by what are great reviews, and word-of-mouth online buzz.

He really does seem to be reinvigorated by the chance to take those songs, the music, and especially his voice to generations of North Americans. While it may not be as strong as it once was, for Lightfoot, just the fact that it’s there is enough for him.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

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charlene is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-23-2011, 12:37 PM   #2
Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Montreal, Quebec
Posts: 49
Default Re: Vancouver newspaper interview

Great article! I love that he opens up to why he won't open up about his past. It's kind of sad that he feels he has to, many of us wouldn't want to explain our behavior of 35 years ago.

I love that he doesn't dismiss the possibility of writing his own book & I really enjoyed his complete dismissal of Bidini's book.

I'm glad you are back on line. I don't post often but I sure missed lurking!
Moose is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-23-2011, 06:12 PM   #3
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Erie, PA
Posts: 78
Default Re: Vancouver newspaper interview

I have no interest in reading an unauthorized biography. What could be a better legacy than the body of work that is available to all of us coupled with a seemingly tireless ability to keep performing?
teherie is offline   Reply With Quote

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