Monday, 13 April 2015

L is for Lightfoot

Many Canadian artists don't get the credit they deserve so I'm including Gordon Lightfoot in my A to Z Challenge.

He was born in 1938 in Orillia, north of Toronto Ontario.  His mother quickly recognized his musical talent and encouraged him to take part in choirs both at school and in church.  Performances at local radio stations and music festivals gave him the exposure he needed to enter a singing competition in Toronto's historic Massey Hall.  In his teenage years he learned piano, percussion, and guitar while continuing to sing in the resort area of Muskoka for extra income.

In 1958 he moved to California and studied at the Westlake College of Music; at the same time producing commercial jingles to support himself.  His style became influenced by prominent folk singers like Pete Seeger, Bob Gibson, and The Weavers.  Returning to Canada in 1960 he quickly became known in the Toronto area as he promoted folk music.  A year-long stint on the BBC TV's Country and Western Show in 1963 helped him develop as a songwriter and led to a recording contract upon his return to Canada.

His live performances throughout the 1960's and 1970's enabled him to consistently place singles in the Canadian Top 40 and brought him his first gold disc.  However in 1972 he was forced to ease up on his busy touring schedule after contracting Bell's Palsy, a stress-related nerve dysfunction that affects the muscles on one side of the face.  After recovering he went to work again, writing songs in a variety of subjects that had inspired him, including "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" to commemorate the loss of the so-named freighter in a storm on Lake Superior.

Lightfoot kept up with the changing musical tastes of the time by shifting toward a more folk-pop style in the 1980's and then returned to his acoustic roots in the 1990's.  His success was briefly marred by his 1987 lawsuit of composer Michael Masser, in which he claimed that Masser stole a melody from one of his early tunes (the matter was settled out of court).

In 2002 he was hospitalized and underwent surgery for a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm, and also endured a six-week coma and a tracheotomy.  His recovery was long but in 2004 he made a surprise comeback with a new album.  Today he continues to perform over sixty shows a year to sell-out crowds - despite the occasional Internet hoax that claims his death.

He has produced more than 200 recordings.  His honours include 16 Juno Awards, induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, a star on Canada's Walk of Fame, and being made a Companion of the Order of Canada.

This is a recording of the song that earned him a Gold Disc in 1971.  According to Lightfoot it was written as a reflection on his disintegrating marriage at the time.
If You Could Read My Mind

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