Gordon Lightfoot on chauvinism, Drake and why he keeps going
CTVNews.ca Staff, with a report from CTV National News’ Chief Anchor and Senior Editor Lisa LaFlamme
Published Thursday, May 23, 2019 10:09PM EDT
Gordon Lightfoot is not exactly one for slowing down – not even at the age of 80.
The life of the Canadian music legend is being explored in a new documentary and he’s in the midst of a U.S. tour as he completes his first album in 15 years.
For most of his life, Lightfoot has been on the proverbial carefree highway. But even in his later years, he’s thrilled to be on the road, he said in an interview with CTV National News’ Chief Anchor and Senior Editor Lisa LaFlamme.
This could be driven by the fact that despite his historic legacy in music, he still feels he has a lot to give. When asked if he’s proud of his decades-long career, he said: “Not yet. I want to keep this thing rolling … I want to be like Stompin’ Tom Connors and leave a great impression.”
The international folk-rocker recalled a time when he was just hired as a songwriter – back when most didn’t even know he could sing. But looking back on his success, he said he’s seeing parts of his legacy differently.
After decades of performing his classic hit “For Lovin’ Me.” Lightfoot said he “lost faith” in it because it’s an “insult to women. I didn’t know what chauvinism was [back then].”
“After singing it for about 23, 24 years on stage, I finally said, ‘I’m not going to sing this anymore’ because of what it says,” he said of the song which has been covered by the likes of Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan
Now he considers it tactless and unacceptable for his concert set lists.
Lightfoot’s songs have been covered by the greats, including Elvis Presley – which shocked the Orillia, Ont. native at the time. The first time he realized he’d been covered by the King, was while he was driving.
“I almost jumped out of the car. I heard it on the car radio,” he laughed.
Looking back, Lightfoot still remembers the lyrics of all his songs -- including early-career jingles such as beer commercials, which have long been lost to the mists of time.
One thing even Lightfoot forgot was a collection of six songs he’d written nearly two decades ago. While he was cleaning out his office, he found songs he’d written just before he suffered a heart aneurysm in 2001.
“I was at full strength, full health, full vocals -- playing guitar at a lot better than I can play now,” he said, adding that since then, he’s suffered a stroke which has limited the use of his right hand.
The recovered songs will be the basis of a new album, which could mean another tour. If that happens, though, Lightfoot said not to expect to see anyone else tuning his guitar for him before every gig -- that’s his job.
“I maintain my own instruments. They have to be in absolute pitch,” he said. But over the years, he’s made personal changes, including giving up smoking, which he’s been trying to maintain.
“None of us is totally free of sin … I did give up alcohol,” he said, admitting that “for years and years, I was using it as a writing tool.”
He said cutting himself off the drink likely saved his life. During his younger years, Lightfoot said alcohol likely explained why he felt empowered enough to recklessly jump from one 10th-floor balcony to another.
Although he could fit in anywhere, Lightfoot is proud to live in Canada. “I really like being here in Canada. I’m really happy that I was born in Canada because it’s a great place to be,” Lightfoot said.
“Good Lord, I’ve canoed all over the whole north country here.”
And part of that love is saved for the Canadian superstars of today, such as Drake and Justin Bieber. “I’ve had both their albums appearing on my desk in my office to listen to -- when they first started,” he boasted.
Lightfoot said his love of modern music is easy because the songs have “these fantastic beats and great arrangements.”
The new documentary, "Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind" will be released in the coming weeks and will hope to uncover aspects of the musician has keep mostly to himself.