Gordon Lightfoot Biography

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Gordon Lightfoot-photo
The title track and first single of Gordon Lightfoot's new album, A Painter Passing Through, has a lot to do with the much-decorated artist who sings it.

"It's very autobiographical," says Lightfoot, who wrote the song and all but two of the 10 cuts on his new disc. "It's sort of the way I see myself now-or could see myself for quite a few years to come. I turn 60 this year. I've settled down now, and I'm in this wonderful position of being allowed to make my own albums-and as usual, the songs on this album paint pictures."

Be they pictures of wildlife, like the symbolic bird of "Ringneck Loon," character sketches like the subway busker in "My Little Love," or Toronto cityscapes like "On Yonge Street," A Painter Passing Through is full of the uplifting spirit and deep meaning that has marked "Gord" Lightfoot's extraordinary career. Since emerging from the Toronto folk club scene in the early '60s, the singer/songwriter has recorded 19 albums (14 for Warner Bros. or Reprise Records). He has had five Grammy nominations and has won 17 Juno Awards in his native Canada. In 1970, in recognition of his contributions in furthering Canadian culture, he received the prestigious Order of Canada citation; last November he was presented the Governor General's Award-the highest official Canadian honor, which is conferred on very few (Joni Mitchell is another) for their international efforts in spreading Canadian culture.

Meanwhile, Lightfoot has continued to tour and record with his estimable core band of guitarist Terry Clements, bassist Rick Haynes, keyboardist Mike Heffernan and drummer Barry Keane. Lightfoot, of course, plays a variety of acoustic guitars, and regularly co-produces his own albums-this time with engineer Bob Doidge.

"I'm not what I'd call a 'gifted' producer like my friend David Foster," says Lightfoot. "I certainly don't over-produce, by any stretch of the imagination!" But here Lightfoot typically understates. His albums characteristically focus on his simple and direct singing approach, with instrumental backing solely serving the songs and the feelings expressed therein.

"This is my nineteenth album since 1965, so I try to take everything I've learned as I go along and apply it to each project," continues Lightfoot, who takes as much time as he needs in order to complete the best album possible. Indeed, A Painter Passing Through is his first album since 1993's Waiting For You.

"This is my professional occupation," he adds. "I start by assembling material, which can take a year-and-a-half. Then I go into the studio-and it can take at least that long again! So the ten songs on this album are the best that I could put together in a five-year period."

The lead track, "Drifters," Lightfoot explains, is about "being footloose, having your antennae out and searching for someone." It's followed by "My Little Love" and the "Ringneck Loon," in which the bird is likened to a working man in the city.

"I Used To Be A Country Singer"-a conversation with a hotel chambermaid which turns into a sing-along-was penned by Steve McEown, who incidentally, hails from the same area as Lightfoot. "Boathouse" was written around the time of "Ringneck Loon" in the lakeside location where Lightfoot resides with his young family.

Lightfoot calls "Much To My Surprise" the "most impressionistic" cut on the disc. The album proceeds, he explains, into "the very real stuff which deals with both nature and life in general." Following the title track, "On Yonge Street" depicts Toronto's main drag which is 500 miles long and actually runs all the way to Manitoba. "The song itself is a romantic idea about people walking down Yonge Street," says the writer, who follows it with his version of Ian Tyson's "Red Velvet," which he has wanted to record for years and is "about a guy living alone on a ranch after his girl leaves him. Can you imagine anything more devastating?"

Closing the album is "Uncle Toad Said." "It's about the exuberance of youth, as seen through the eyes of a simple garden toad who's observing the goings-on of the young people living in the house that he lives behind-and they know he exists, too!" As a whole, then, A Painter Passing Through is entirely in line with the long-running skein of musical genius extending back to the church choir in Orillia, Ontario, where the young Lightfoot first began singing. By the time he graduated high school he had taught himself to play guitar and had written his first song; shortly thereafter he became a mainstay in the Toronto folk music scene, and was a featured performer on Canadian television.

In 1969, after recording five groundbreaking albums with United Artists, he signed to Warner Bros./Reprise Records, where he recorded such enduring works as If you Could Read My Mind (1970), Summer Side Of Life (1971), Don Quixote (1972), Sundown (1973), Summertime Dream (1976), Endless Wire (1978), Shadows (1982) and Salute (1983).

But besides his albums, Lightfoot has composed a catalog of classic hits-for himself and varied others. Foremost among these are "Early Morning Rain," "Canadian Railroad Trilogy," "Cotton Jenny," "Don Quixote," "Sundown," "Shadows," "If You Could Read My Mind," "Carefree Highway," "The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald," "Beautiful," "Alberta Bound" and "Ribbon Of Darkness." This last song was a hit for country great Marty Robbins; other artists who have recorded Lightfoot's songs include Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul & Mary, Ian & Sylvia, Richie Havens, Glen Campbell, Anne Murray, Nana Mouskouri, Harry Belafonte, Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand and George Hamilton IV.

In addition to his musical accomplishments, Lightfoot branched out into acting, appearing with Bruce Dern and Helen Shaver in the 1980 feature film Harry Tracy. He appeared on network television later in the decade in an episode of Hotel-in which the one-time problem drinker played a musician struggling to overcome alcoholism. Then after the release of East of Midnight in 1986, Lightfoot went through a period of reflection and reassessment of his music and his life, re-emerging with the renewed artistic commitment and creative energy which was manifested in Waiting For You. "I was looking for something more direct, from the heart," he said at the time, and these qualities are again at the forefront of A Painter Passing Through.

"We worked so hard on this album-and really love it," says Lightfoot on the eve of its release. "I feel like I'm part of a totem pole, a big totem pole. My stuff has always been considered to be 'adult contemporary,' though some people still refer to me as a folkie. But I've had stuff in the mainstream and in the country field, so I guess I'm in the middle somewhere-but anywhere on a totem pole in this business is fine by me!"

(------taken from Reprise)

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Daylight Kitty: Mystery revealed | Reviewer: David | 9/14/10

The song is about a cat that goes down by the sea and seaworld evening and returns every morning back to its master house. nd ie with its nine lives waiting for the man to drop her some fish.

Though its spelt Kathy it s pronounced Kitty. Gordon has clearly left clues for those have wandered what the song is about. And its definitely not a girl. Her old man is her owner.

1. Waiting for the man to come by the seaworld -for fishy bits
2. She lives nine lives in her midnight world
wile her owner is fast asleep
3. Cats don't get up in the morning but become active towards the end of the day

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-------- 09/01/2014
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