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The definitive biography of Canada's most beloved singer-songwriter, a legendary musician who helped define the folk-pop era.
From the tender ballad of "Beautiful" to the historical lament of "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" to the plaintive political plea of "Black Day in July," Gordon Lightfoot's songs have inspired and enchanted fans for more than fifty years. Beloved by a devoted Canadian audience, Lightfoot's work has been performed and admired by musicians from around the world, including Joni Mitchell, Nico, Ronnie Hawkins, and Robbie Robertson. Nobel Prize-winner Bob Dylan once listed "Sundown" and "If You Could Read My Mind" among his favourite Lightfoot songs, before adding, "I can't think of any I don't like." In addition to winning nearly every Canadian music award, in 2012, Lightfoot was inducted into the American Songwriters Hall of Fame alongside such luminaries as Leonard Cohen, Kris Kristoffersen, and Dylan; it honoured Lightfoot as a singer who helped "define the folk-pop sound of the 1960s and '70s."
Biographer Nick Jennings has had unprecedented access to the notoriously reticent musician. He chronicles Lightfoot's early efforts--his school principal recorded a disc of "Gordie" singing at age 9--to his beginnings as a songwriter to his heyday in concert halls around the globe. Possessed of a strong work ethic and a perfectionist bent, Lightfoot brought discipline to his craft and performances. But he partied just as hard in that rock 'n' roll era, and alcoholism began to take its toll. Lightfoot toured relentlessly and his personal life suffered as marriages and relationships unravelled. At 63, he suffered an aortic aneurysm that nearly killed him and kept him in a coma for six weeks. But his amazing stamina helped him survive and miraculously saw him on stage once again, resuming his touring and yearly sold-out show at Massey Hall.
Jennings paints an unforgettable portrait of an artist in the making, set against the turbulent era of sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll. Voices from the music industry mix with loyal fans to illustrate how the boy from small-town Ontario became the legendary bard of Canada. Stuffed with anecdotes and the singer's own reminisences, Lightfoot is an exhilarating read.
About the Author
NICHOLAS JENNINGS is one of Canada's most respected music journalists. He was the music critic and feature writer for Maclean's magazine from 1980 to 2000. In addition, he has written for Saturday Night, Billboard, Words & Music, TV Guide, Inside Entertainment and Hello! magazines, reviewing literally thousands of recordings and interviewing and profiling many of the world's leading artists, from Oscar Peterson, Paul Simon, Mick Jagger, and Paul McCartney to Joni Mitchell, Sarah McLachlan, Diana Krall, and Shania Twain. He has contributed to The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, and, from 1992 to 1998, to the "Global Groove" column to Toronto's Eye Weekly. He has been a frequent guest on CBC Radio, as a panelist on 50 Tracks and a regular contributor to Inside the Music. His previous books include Before the Gold Rush: Flashbacks to the Dawn of the Canadian Sound and Fifty Years of Music: The Story of EMI Music Canada.
Shortlisted for the 2017 Legislative Assembly of Ontario Speaker's Book Award
Nominated for the 2018 Heritage Toronto Award - Historical Writing: Book
One of CBC Books' "20 works of Canadian Nonfiction to watch for this Fall" picks
“Perhaps the greatest gift of. . .Lightfoot is that [it leads] you right back to [his] music. Feels like you never left, only better.” –Maclean’s
“an informative, highly readable book. . .Lightfoot fans should rejoice.” –The Globe and Mail
“Jennings as always is a master storyteller . . . His deft manipulation of narrative, told in clear language, draws the reader in immediately . . . Jennings’s true gift might be his ability to slowly reveal Lightfoot to us – over the course of the book, the complexity of his character emerges, through a peeling away of the many layers the notoriously reticent singer has kept hidden. . . the best reward for Lightfoot fans who have waited for so long: Lightfoot is your chance to finally know him deeply.” –National Post
“This is the definitive book on Gordon Lightfoot's life and lengthy career.” –FYI Music News
“To read this book is to come away with a greater understanding of how a young choirboy from Orillia became one of Canada’s most revered songwriters and performers, and beloved among music fans around the world and across genres.” –NOW Magazine
“Acclaimed Canadian music historian Nicholas Jennings presents the definitive biography of a national musical treasure.” –Zoomer
“. . .the biography for which the songwriter’s fans have been patiently waiting. Jennings investigates the music and the man.” –Toronto SUN
“If you could read Gordon Lightfoot’s mind, this is the tale his thoughts could tell. . .This is very much Gord’s story, his version.” –The Washington Post
“This portrait of a stoic, deeply talented and driven man is an engaging and moving one. An essential read for anyone who cares about late 20th century troubadours.” –The Buffalo News
"Thorough and generous, without ignoring the singer's warts." –Winnipeg Free Press
“Nicholas Jennings’ fascinating biography solidifies [Lightfoot’s] legend…readers discover the two sides of the man who has told Canada’s story to the world in song.”–Montreal Times
Other Musicians on Gordon Lightfoot
“I can’t think of any Gordon Lightfoot song I don’t like. Everytime I hear a song of his, it’s like I wish it would last forever . . . Lightfoot became a mentor for a long time. I think he probably still is to this day.” —Bob Dylan
“An extremely fine piece of songwriting.” —Johnny Cash on “Canadian Railroad Trilogy”
“What a song—that’s my favourite on the record.” —Neil Young, about covering “If You Could Read My Mind” on his A Letter Home album
“Gordon had a real loyal following all over the place, including over in Europe. When he’d play in L.A., they would come out in droves. It was a ritual that, whenever he’d do his tour, all these people would come and see him. They loved him. A very talented guy.” —Robbie Robertson