At 71, Gordon Lightfoot is touring, making more music

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"... there's always the possibility of making a new album"

A week after a reporting fiasco erroneously declared Gordon Lightfoot dead, Spartanburg Herald-Journal reporter Todd Money contributed this fine interview, conducted shortly before the death report hoax.

Almost buried in the interview is a paragraph that suggests that - contrary to what Lightfoot has said in interviews for the past 18 months or so - another original album is not out of the question! Hope springs eternal, and the news does make this Lightfoot fan hopeful.

See the italicized paragraph in the interview below.

At 71, Gordon Lightfoot is touring, making more music

By Todd Money

Published: Thursday, February 25, 2010 at 3:15 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 24, 2010 at 8:44 p.m.

If you could read Gordon Lightfoot's mind, well, you would surely learn something about persistence.

The Canadian folk-rocker responsible for a string of hits in the 1960s and '70s never really let up, in the studio or on tour, even after the folkie movement of the '60s passed and the era of the singer-songwriter that marked the next decade gave way to disco and punk.

He could've, though. Lightfoot, now 71, contracted Bell's palsy in the early '70s, a condition that partially paralyzed his face for a while; he battled alcohol abuse until the '80s. In 2002, he was in a coma for six weeks after suffering a ruptured aortic aneurysm, and in 2006, he suffered a minor stroke while performing.

Musical trends passed him by, too. Lightfoot's gentle baritone, melodic songs and understated arrangements made for a style that sounded just right in 1974, when he hit his commercial peak with the album "Sundown." But he couldn't maintain his popularity and began recording less frequently, eventually mixing in synthesizers and other trendy flourishes with less success.

Lightfoot kept going, though, kicking his alcohol dependency, remaining an engaging artist in concert (check out the YouTube clips) and introducing oldies such as "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" and "Carefree Highway" to a new generation, and then to another one. When he says "I've always been a performer," he means it.

The singer recently spoke with the Herald-Journal about touring with his band, which he affectionately calls his "orchestra." Soon after our interview, a rumor circulated on Twitter that Lightfoot had died; the ever-resilient Lightfoot has since confirmed that to be false.

Question: Do you still get a kick out of playing the old songs in your shows?

GL: Fortunately, the songs hold up very well. I have a good bit of faith in my material, as it stands, and whatever we play that we play every night, we usually rotate nine or 10 others into the show.

Q: You're still playing with most of your longtime band, right?

GL: I've got a couple that have been there over 30 years. But I've been in the business for 50 years now … I try to keep myself in shape and do exercises, and that sort of thing. I keep a very regular schedule. I stay prepared. … We did 70 shows this past year.

Q: What are you working on now?

GL: Well, there's always the possibility of making a new album. There's always a few songs I sort of keep on the back burner. Going at it again, it would probably take me, with the rate I work, about three or four years to do that, and my children are all growing up … It's a very isolating existence, writing material for an album. (emphasis, mine - VLM)

Q: You're sort of regarded as being a technical perfectionist …

GL: I'm a worker. I work hard at it. … I know I've got a payroll, I know I've got people to support with six children, an orchestra …

Q: And you've had your share of health scares.

GL: Since the (2006) illness, over the last five years, I've concentrated even more on getting myself back in fighting shape and to be able to go out there and do these shows, because I love it, and I'm really energetically involved in it. I feel very fortunate.

Q: Your songs have been covered by quite a wide array of artists.

GL: Not as many as some … I've had a few, and I'm very grateful. I think my outstanding one of all is Elvis' version of "Early Morning Rain." It's on a cassette tape entitled "Elvis Now."

Q: So that wasn't put out on CD?

GL: Oh, it's on record, yes! You'll find it on your Internet. That's how I get all my CDs -- I get the secretary to order them (laughs).

Q: Do you take much to the Internet?

GL: No, I don't take to it at all; all that stuff is at the office. My kids are into it.

Q: Where do your musical inspirations come from these days?

GL: I reach way far back. I really reverted to getting back into my own style in my last couple of albums for Warner Bros. (1993's "Waiting for You" and 1998's "A Painter Passing Through") … I went right back to using an acoustic guitar for everything; it was more simple to get it around. We can still get the same beat and the same power in a folk-rock tune, so I don't need to play electric guitar on those tunes.

Q: With the Olympics in Canada again …

GL: It's a hoot. It's very euphoric … I've been watching it off and on every day.


Published with permission from Todd Money and his editor at the Spartanburg Herald-Journal. Original article posted at the newspaper's web site


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