Legendary singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot will kick off a Canada-wide tour in spring 2014, and CBC Music is proud to host the official, Canadian exclusive, Eastern Canada pre-sale beginning Oct. 30, 2013. Tickets, which range from $29.50-$99.50, will go on sale to the general public Nov. 1, with more Central and Western Canada dates and pre-sale announcements to follow in early 2014.
The Eastern Canada tour kicks off in St. John’s, N.L., with back-to-back shows April 25 and 26 at the Arts & Cultural Centre, ending May 11 in Owen Sound, Ont., at the Lumley Bayshore Arena. A full schedule can be found at the end of this post.
This tour is a remarkable chance to be part of Lightfoot’s 50-plus-year legacy as one of the world’s most accomplished and beloved songwriters (“Sundown,” “If You Could Read My Mind,” “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” and the "Canadian Railroad Trilogy” chief among them).
To celebrate, Lightfoot sat down with host Andy Sheppard for an intimate discussion about his 10 favourite songs of his own lengthy career. But it’s not a simple catalogue of his biggest hits. Instead, Lightfoot offers a deeply personal and practical glimpse behind the songs that mean the most to him, and the playlist below will let you listen along as he guides you, track by track.
“It’s an ocean song. And related to family and not having a family and removed from the warmth of that existence that occurs later in the song. The person is being compared to a person without roots and no prospects of that kind.... Do I feel lonely? [Laughs] Sure, sometimes. Yeah, having been on the roller coaster ride I’ve been on all of my life, there are many things I can think back on and cause flashes of memory that I can feel them stabbing at my being.
“At one point I was going to send it off to Willie Nelson [laughs]. It’s a very sensitive and wide-open kind of tune. It’s a wonderful-sounding song and it’s from my East of Midnight album, which is really my best album. I love the song personally, even though we don’t perform it onstage. I guess because we’ve got too many tunes in the A-shape on the guitar. Sometimes there’s a technical reason. You couldn’t find the space for it, or play it perhaps in the way — I’ve got several songs that I’ve recorded that I haven’t been able to recreate to my satisfaction onstage. But I really love the song, it’s one of my personal favourites.”
'Baby Step Back'
“It’s about a guy who has no family and wants one. He’s adrift. That’s the way I was at that time. I was single for 19 years in between marriages and I did a lot of writing about it. A lot of remorse, a lot of emotional trauma, but also rising out of the ashes. Today I feel good! It’s just the way it is. Things start to level themselves after a time. If I wrote a song now, it’d probably be boring as heck!
“It’s about a guy trying to get his girl back. He knows he’s made a mistake and he wants the girl back. I know that feeling. I was out at the golf course one day, standing at the first tee — I’m not a golfer — with my former brother-in-law and he said to the rest of us in the foursome, ‘Either step up or step back!’ and that became the song title. My old brother-in-law never let me forget that either. He’d say, ‘When are you going to send me my share of the royalties, Gordie?’ The tempo of the song came when I was striding up to the seventh green, in time with my step.”
'In My Fashion'
“I’m not going to stop now, that’s what it means basically, and it still applies to this day. I had just finished doing a feature film and it felt like I was on hold for eight weeks. There’s a lot of hurry-up-and-wait in that business, wonderful business. And coming off that, I did another movie and then I dove in and wrote the Shadows album. I had to get started again, I’d wasted too much time thinking about other things, divided my time. I did one other thing after that, a TV thing called Hotel with James Brolin and Connie Sellecca. I could never memorize a script. It was horrible, scary, and I said ‘No more of this,’ and back into it I wrote Shadows and ‘In My Fashion.’”
'A Painter Passing Through Lyrics'
“It’s just about here’s who I am now, here’s where I been, nothing to it much. It just gets the imagination going.... We could really get that one humpin’. That one really gets movin’ [when we play it live]. I play it every night, and ‘Baby Step Back.’ It’s in the perfect key for the spot I need it to be in. I could have any two or three other tunes and it would be. It gets movement going.”
'Now and Then'
“It really is another one of those songs about a person trying to recover — they’re trying to make sense out of why their relationship has fallen apart when they had a lot of good things going on, but it seems like the bad outweighs the good somehow. A lot of it, too, is the song itself, the melody, the way it flows and the way it builds. It’s a simple message of unrequited love, but it’s a good song and it marries very well with the lyrics I’ve provided to it.”
'The Pony Man'
“I wrote it for my two little tads when they were such. I wrote it when I was living in a triplex with the wife and the two babies in my first marriage. It’s the natural song you’d write when you have two babies. I would play it for them while I was writing it. I had a little room of my own to write in. That’s where I wrote the 'Canadian Railroad Trilogy.’ It’s really amazing, some of the places where the writing was done. But ‘Pony Man’ is a nice little song.... That’s one of those I’d love to have done over. It was done at a time when my recording — my recording ability improved as the years went by. I didn’t like what I was hearing, so I got better. I was very critical. This is one of the ones I did really fast and I think I had a bit of a hangover when I did it and we’ll just leave it at that.”
“That one I had underway, I was goin’ on a canoe expedition up in northern Quebec. I was doing the George River, up in the Smallwood Reservoir, and I didn’t have the song finished yet, so I finished it on the canoe trip while I was paddlin’ the canoe, using the stroke for a metre.”
'East of Midnight'
“We did it for a long time in a very spare manner, just using two guitars without the arrangements, but I like the feel of this thing, that’s why I’m giving it to you. But we had to stop doing it as part of a routine where I would sit down and do these little solo sections. I don’t do that now, so you gotta take it outta the rotation. You’re running a show here, ya gotta remember that you’re running a show in this game. I have a great band, too.”
“I get locations in my mind, a place where I was when I was a kid. I always recall the Narrows in Orillia. I always imagine the boatyard out there every time I do this tune for some reason.... It’s about a guy in his backyard, getting ready to barbecue, have some beer, getting ready to be with his wife and kids, hoping nobody phones ... I was really glad I wrote this song.”
“At the time that I wrote it, I was actually involved with a woman and I think she kinda figured into it somewhere. It had to happen. It’s happened a few times where you’ve written and you’ve been involved and sometimes that gets more interesting. But sometimes even when you’re involved, the songs come out sad, because you know somewhere down the line, unless the logjam should break, or something, I’ve always found that there’s a beginning and there’s an end. I’ve used it a lot in my writing and perhaps I shouldn’t have, but it finds its way in naturally, of course, when you do this for a living."
Gordon Lightfoot's Eastern Canada tour dates
April 25 and April 26: Arts & Cultural Centre, St. John's, N.L.
April 27: Pepsi Centre, Cornerbrook, N.L.
April 29: Keating Centre, Antigonish, N.S.
April 30: Metro Centre, Halifax, N.S.
May 1: Credit Union Place, Summerside, P.E.I.
May 2: Casino New Brunswick, Moncton, N.B.
May 3: Harbour Station, Saint John, N.B.
May 4: Aitken Centre, Fredericton, N.B.
May 7: Hamilton Place, Hamilton, Ont.
May 8: Memorial Centre, Peterborough, Ont.
May 9: K-Rock Centre, Kingston, Ont.
May 10: Budweiser Gardens, London, Ont.
May 11: Lumley Bayshore Arena, Owen Sound, Ont.
on Oct 21, 2013