A “troubadour” is a lyrical poet, a wandering singer. Add folk rock toe tappers and you have the extraordinary singer/songwriter Gordon Lightfoot.
Gordon Lightfoot began young, performing his original songs on a steel-string guitar in noisy bars and coffee houses in Canada. He competed with loud conversations and TV sports screens, yet the audience was drawn to his songs’ captivating stories and heart.
Lightfoot’s award-winning songs include “Early Mornin’ Rain”, “(That’s What You Get) For Lovin’ Me”, “Sundown” and “If You Could Read My Mind”. His songs have been recorded by fellow legends including Peter, Paul & Mary, Judy Collins, Bob Dylan, Barbra Streisand, Jim Croce, Jimmy Buffet, and Elvis.
Lightfoot remains both friendly and accessible despite his star status and multiple platinum albums. He shared an interview on his career and upcoming concert at the S. F. Palace of Fine Arts.
Marinscope: Where do you get inspiration for your musical stories?
GL: “They come from thin air, springing from my imagination. I don’t sing in the shower, but I do think in the shower. Some songs are based on articles I read. Some are situations I observed. “Go Go Girl in Love” was inspired by a band performer’s romance when he met a gal dancing in a cage in a bar.”
Marinscope: Many of your love songs are quite personal. Are they your relationships?
GL: “Those songs put a face on the woman involved, so I am there onstage with the past.”
Marinscope: “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” was inspired when you read the news story of that ship sunk in Lake Superior.
GL: “Yes, I had previously written “The Ballad of Yarmouth Castle” about a ship that caught fire and sank. When I read news about the sinking of the ship Edmund Fitzgerald, it inspired me to write a new ballad.”
Marinscope: When you write a song, do the lyrics come first or the music?
GL: “I start with the chord progression, then the melody, and then wait for the lyrics to match.”
Marinscope: Your baritone voice, your eloquent words, speak to young and old. Your straight talk hits home in every verse. What do you want folks to remember from your body of work?
GL: “It’s entertainment and poetry set to music.”
Marinscope: You have over 220 songs recorded and 20 albums to your name, and recently discovered 18 unpublished songs hiding in storage. Are you still writing songs?
GL: Yes, but the songs we will perform in concert will be the cream of the crop, the familiar songs people love to hear. I might add that my back-up band is the best band I’ve ever had. These four guys are terrific.”
Marinscope: You have fought many health battles, and come through them all. What keeps you on such an ambitious tour schedule at nearly 80 years of age?
GL: “In 1982 I gave up alcohol and was dry for 23 years. I started exercising, and go to my health club regularly. These days I have an occasional glass of wine.”
Marinscope: You are recognized as a legend, to international acclaim. Your face is on a Canadian postage stamp – how cool is that? Which of the many honors bestowed upon you make you most proud?
GL: “I guess it would be the Order of Canada, but I don’t take any of the awards seriously. I just keep them tucked away.”
Marinscope: After 60 years onstage, are you still recognized if you walk in the street?
GL: “Sure, and everyone nowadays wants selfies. My wife Kim has learned how to operate dozens of their cameras so we can make those folks happy.”
Tickets ($49-$99) for the Wednesday April 25th concert at the Palace of Fine Arts, 3301 Lyon Street, S.F. Marina District are at https://palaceoffinearts.org/event/gordon-lightfoot/