As some readers fail to grasp, we're often limited by space in the dead tree edition. Case in point: my piece on Gordon Lightfoot today.>"/>
As some readers fail to grasp, we're often limited by space in the dead tree edition. Case in point: my piece on Gordon Lightfoot today. Sometimes, you start riffing on a given theme (in this case, Lightfoot's strange omission from the Band's famous final concert), and before you can come up for air, you've burned through your allotted column inches without culling more than one measly quote from a lengthy phone interview. This is exactly what happened with the Lightfoot piece, and this is why I've decided to post the full transcript of my interview with the greatest AM voice of all time, in all its unfiltered, confusing (i.e., Lightfoot loves Celine Dion, doesn't know who Lucinda Williams is) glory. The questions are mine, the quotes are Gordon's.
What Canadian songwriters do you admire? "I like Sarah McLachlan a lot. I like Tom Connors. I like Leonard Cohen, Bryan Adams and Celine Dion. The first time I heard Celine Dion, I swear to God, was 25 years ago. She was just starting out and barely spoke any English. She had to learn the whole language. That's hard. If somebody asked me to learn French, I couldn't do it. And I took it in high school, too. Leonard Cohen is completely bilingual."
(Here, it's worth noting Lightfoot has never heard of Lucinda Williams, whom I compared him to in the context that both penned hits for other artists well before becoming stars as performers. He pledged to go out and buy one of her records.)
You still in touch with Dylan? "Not really that much. I hung out with them more around Rolling Thunder time. From 1965 until 1980, I used to see quite a lot of him. We had a driver that we used [in Toronto], Lou Goldblatt -- he was responsible for bringing Dylan to a couple of my parties, when he was driving around town."
Has Dylan ever asked you to tour with himi? "I was asked to do a duet with him at one point. But I don't know. Maybe it's because we still play capoed music. A lot of people like to play capoed music in their living rooms. I still do it that way, and it's quite an art because of the intonation. And it also gets your keyboard man in some pretty strange keys, too. A lot of people like to come and see how we do that. The best thing to do is never use them at all, but it just happens that some of the very best songs I wrote were written capoed. So people have had a hell of a time transposing some of my tunes."
Do you feel more appreciated today than you did when you fell ill? "Maybe so. I don't know why, but I get that sort of a feeling. It may have created some more interest. We have a good place in the pecking order, but there's a lot of competition out there. Right now, we're going 'til the end of 2009. THere's no point in stopping, as long as it's paying it's own way. we're not playing these gigantic hockey rinks like some of the other acts, so we have to be a little more frugal."
One of Johnny Cash's last acts was making a cover of "If You Could Read My Mind." What do you think of his version? "It felt like it was coming from the soul. As well organized as they were, I'm sure they thought ahead about it, but I never knew that it was being done. If somebody does one of my songs, I like it."
You turn 70 soon. What keeps you out on the road? "It's to keep the organization together. There are quite a few people involved who like to work, including myself. Some of the examples of longevity that we see around, such as Willie Nelson, he never stops. It's fun to do and it's kind of a discipline, too. You've got to try to keep it together and stay in shape. It's not so much fitness as it is a stirring of energy.
Do you feel like it would have been more appropriate to include you instead of Neil Diamond in the Band's Last Waltz? "I was there as a spectator. I was asked to do it, but I don't think I was prepared to do it at that time. I didn't feel I had the confidence to do it. Robbie came out before the show and asked me. I wish I had, but I just wasn't prepared."
What is your idealistic vision of the entire man, and how do you feel you've succeeded in pursuit of that goal? "It's been a bit of a roller-coaster to me. It's how you handle situations as they come along so they don't put you into any sort of emotional trauma. To be able to fight that off is a good thing to be able to do. It's hard to get these women to hang in there sometimes. I've seen both sides. I've left and I've been left and all that sort of stuff. Can you rise to the occasion of starting over, for instance. I wouldn't be writing songs like that now at 68 years old. If I were to practice what I preach at this point, I'd be rewriting my estate. It's all in the songs."
Do you feel that Canada is the true land of the free? "How can somebody make a broad statement like that? We live in a free society in North America. We're cousins. We have our ups and downs."