LIGHTFOOT BOOKS

The following titles are full biographies or books
that contain significant Lightfoot content.


  
ONCE UPON A RED EYE
by Richard Harison
Life on the road with Gordon Lightfoot - and much more...
Published by Friesen Press - November 15, 2019
ISBN-978-1-5255-5463-6 (Hardcover)
ISBN-978-1-5255-5464-3 (Paperback)
ISBN-
978-1-5255-5465-0 (eBook)
   
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Lightfoot.ca Review - November 7, 2019

ONCE UPON A RED EYE

Take A Trip On Board A Musical And Cultural Time Machine

In my over fifty years as a touring concert performer I certainly have both
enjoyed and appreciated a good measure of success, which has allowed me to
visit places I might not otherwise have been able to, as well as to meet people
that I have long admired for their talents in musical and other fields. But
I think what remains foremost in my mind is that I have always loved just
being there. I think I could sum the whole experience up simply by saying, “I
love the work!” If I didn't, I wouldn’t keep doing it.
And while I wrote and performed the songs, I would be remiss if I did
not acknowledge the contributions of the people who were with me on these
tours. Primarily, I have been very fortunate over the years to have always had
a band with such loyal and talented musicians, and I am truly thankful for
their contributions.
I have also had some fine technical help: road managers, sound engineers,
and lighting directors. Of these, Richard readily comes to mind. He was
touring with me for almost twelve years in the seventies during the time
frame of “If You Could Read My Mind,” “Sundown,” and “The Wreck of the
Edmund Fitzgerald.” During this time, at one point or another, he did all
three jobs mentioned above, sometimes simultaneously.
I know you will enjoy his accounts of our time together, which include
the humorous, the intense, and even the outright dangerous—things such as
airplane failures and three bomb threats. Yes, I love the work, and I will not
ever forget the contributions those close to me have made to that love.

Gordon Lightfoot


And so begins this long awaited narrative - part biography; part social commentary; part music business insider; part travelogue, with a foreword by the central figure in this engrossing and mesmerizing ride through the 60's and 70's, Gordon Lightfoot. The author, Richard Harison, as Lightfoot's road and stage manager, was there as a first hand witness and participant in it all. If you were to try to write a fictionalized account of every twist and turn, while navigating the intersections and interactions Richard experienced in this tale, it might strain credulity to believe. But from the heady days of the 60's in New York's Greenwich Village folk scene, the Newport festival where Dylan went electric, the counterculture social and musical revolution of San Francisco and LA, Harison was indeed there through it all, with a one of a kind viewpoint he now shares. He was brushing shoulders with the likes no less of Dylan, Johnny Cash, the Byrds, Joan Baez, Janis Joplin, Jack Nicholson, Art Garfunkel, Linda Ronstadt and a list of many other musical and cultural luminaries too long to list here.

Richard Harison spent his early years in California, raised in Connecticut and was roadie and equipment technician for the Byrds in the mid to late 60's, and as the early chapters illustrate, many unique and even tense situations develop in service to Roger McGuinn and the Byrds. But most notably, Harison performed his duties for iconic singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot from 1970-1981. He played a pivotal role in keeping the tight knit Lightfoot operation rolling smoothly along the carefree highways and flyways of the turbulent 1970's and beyond. Those were the years when Lightfoot was at the pinnacle of his box office and creative powers.

Harison came of age in the 1960's at the height of a musical and cultural upheaval. The Vietnam War was escalating with each passing year and loomed large over every facet of life for that generation's youth. The burgeoning music scene and the war combined to form a formidable fork in the road that was soon to determine how the author's life was about to unfold.
Richard Harison comes across through his self-depreciating style of writing, as a loyal and reliable figure, who's inner compass is always pointing true north.

Richard's father worked in TV and Broadway productions and as a teenager Richard would often tag along with him to those studios and theatres. There he absorbed many aspects of live performance production that would, unknown to him at the time, provide an apprenticeship that would be the underpinning of his future endeavours, as he began to cast about looking for his calling in life.

The early chapters weave an intricate pattern of Harison's travels on both coasts, attending festivals and concerts, and in doing so he meets up with some of the top musicians of the day. Amid a myriad of vividly recreated scenes, he describes how each chance encounter strangely built upon the previous ones, collectively forging onward with what seems, looking back now, as an almost preordained destiny. His future begins to come into clearer focus while attending a Gordon Lightfoot concert in 1968 at the Fillmore West in San Francisco, where he meets Lightfoot's legendary guitarist, Red Shea. A friendship ensued, culminating several years later at Carnegie Hall in New York, where, at Shea's urging, Lightfoot hires Harison to be his tour manager.

The years with Lightfoot form the central core of the book. Tantalizing minutiae from the studio and the road are revealed that hard core fans will find irresistible! Lightfoot has always had a reputation for his generosity and Harison provides multitudes of examples of how that generosity manifested itself in the daily course of events, going a long way to explain the undying loyalty Lightfoot has engendered from those around him. Harison pulls the curtain back, allowing readers to see the interactions between Lightfoot and his entourage, far removed from the music business spotlight. Happenings, whether backstage; on planes; in hotel rooms; rented cars; in restaurants and more, are given the light of day, as Harison, being an integral part of those events, captures them for us in a way that only a first person perspective truly could. While many books on musicians' road exploits are generated from second or third hand accounts, giving readers a 20,000 foot perspective at best, Harison is there on our behalf to provide us with true "on the ground" reconnaissance. We are shown the group's camaraderie on full display, in all of its playful humour, juxtaposed against the ever present deadlines and pressure.

Harison also bears witness to some of the harrowing and difficult times that Lightfoot faced along the way. Crucial career decisions, bomb threats, midair engine failures, and in one of the most captivating chapters, we find Lightfoot touring through troubled Ireland in 1981. Amid the violence and chaos of Dublin and Belfast, with armed soldiers in the streets and barbed wire barricades in front of hotels and concert halls, Harison describes how Lightfoot presses on, even as explosions coming from the outside can be heard during the concerts and political events are developing at breakneck speed. In one instance Harison is invited pre-concert into a Belfast pub where he marvels at the warm and friendly environment he finds there, only seconds after stepping in from the war-like zone in the streets.

In the course of reading this book, one question was continually cycling through my mind, that being how was the author able to ingratiate himself in those early days, being a virtual unknown, into the confidences of these professional musicians that would help propel him along his forward trajectory? After all, aren't those celebrities notorious for erecting barriers around themselves to protect against grifters and worse? Part of the answer perhaps lies in the open nature of the 60's. But even so, as the book was winding down I was resigned to the fact that I would most likely be left to speculate on the matter on my own. But no, it turns out Harison himself had been asking that same question as he reflected on his journey. Following Red Shea's passing, the author asked Red's widow why she believes Red, and by extension so many others, went out on a limb for him, as in Red's case by recommending Harison be hired by Lightfoot. Her answer was succinct and illuminating - but sorry, I'm not inclined to reveal the answer here.

Discover for yourself as you take your seat and buckle up to enjoy Once Upon A Red Eye!

- Wayne Francis



LIGHTFOOT
by Nicholas Jennings
A comprehensive Lightfoot biography.
Published by Viking - September 19, 2017
ISBN-10: 0735232555
ISBN-13: 978-0735232556

Lightfoot.ca Review - Sept. 12, 2017

Stating at the outset that the bar has been set very low by preceding attempts at chronicling Lightfoot's life and career may be very unfair to Mr. Jennings, it still can be said that in light of the very low threshold laid out before him to overcome, Nicholas Jennings' Lightfoot instantly stakes claim to the gold standard of Lightfoot biogarphies and most certainly would have done so even if the previous attempts had been more substantial in nature.

Jennings' interviews of Lightfoot and others close to him, obviously well thought out and plotted by the author in advance, have yielded meticulous detail never before unearthed in the vast volumes of newspaper and magazine articles that came before this book and which often rehashed many of the same well worn anecdotes. The author for the most part, particularly in the early years, avoids falling into that trap. It seems obvious to me that the author made himself very familiar with much of what has been out there in print over the past 5 decades, not an inconsequential achievement in and of itself, which allows him to follow a path uniquely his own in the telling of the Lightfoot story. Jennings has brought fresh detail and perspective to the arc of Lightfoot's life and musical career that suffuse the subject matter with a renewed energy and focus.

Highlights for me were the many engaging tales of Lightfoot's youth in and around Orillia, which illuminate why Lightfoot so often returns to the many aspects of nature within the framework of his songs, sometimes directly, or even in romantic songs utilizing nature as their backdrop, Shadows being a prime example. Very interesting too, is how Jennings sheds new light on the relationship between Lightfoot and Albert Grossman. Lightfoot being signed to the Grossman stable of artists was pivotal in Lightfoot's ultimate rise, but very little in the past has emerged that has added much in the way of nuance to the conflicted feelings between the two, but Jennings remedies that shortcoming with many stories that reveal a little more of Grossman's personality and his affection and respect for Gord, even after they parted ways. On the other end of the scale, we discover the inner workings of an almost fateful management agreement Lightfoot flirted entering into with Hollywood heavyweight, Jerry Weintraub.

Needless to say, Jennings chronicles the songs, the albums, the hits, the misses, all interspersed with colour from the stage, the backstage, the studio, the Lear jet - and all places in between. Events unfold chronologically, whether dealing with matters of a musical, business or personal nature. So you always know where you are in the grand timeline. The only exception being the introduction which finds us in 1975 Rosedale with the Rolling Thunder crew all under Gord's roof, while the host and Bob Dylan, guitars in hand are trading songs in an upstairs room.

The obvious minefield every author has to navigate when writing about Lightfoot, is in dealing with Gordon's personal life. Jennings to my mind avoids the condescending and moralizing attitudes that so many others have resorted to in their rush to sensationalize Lightfoot's personal struggles. This time we find a very balanced approach to this subject matter - be it the drinking, the failed relationships, not always being there for his children - Jennings does not sugarcoat any of this, but uses a deft hand and avoids being judgmental and gives Lightfoot full credit for how he turned all those issues around to finally become a consummate family man, all the while balancing an overwhelmingly busy music career.


While saying that all things pertaining to Lightfoot's music has become my life's work would be stating the case too strongly. However since first encountering Lightfoot's music as a 13 year old in 1968, it has certainly developed into a serious avenue of interest. With the dawn of the internet for the masses in the early 90's, much of at least the bare bones outline of what Jennings covers here has been out there in the public domain, yet his unique ability to compile all the disparate threads scattered throughout the ether into a very compelling narrative which can be cradled in the palm of your hands, is a masterful accomplishment and in point of fact, a service to Lightfoot's public to say the very least. His exhaustive interviews, often confirm, clarify and in some cases dispel many aspects of the Lightfoot story beforehand taken for granted. Are there factual errors to be found? Well, to my eye there are several, but too few and inconsequential to take away from the overall impact of the book.

So now that the new Jennings' biography has entered the Lightfoot canon of literature, we can rest in the knowledge that Lightfoot's career has finally been given the proper thoughtful, extensive and authoritative treatment, long overdue and richly deserved, yet until now has remained on the missing list. However we're still waiting for that tantalizingly elusive Lightfoot autobiography, or absent that, an insider's view of the Lightfoot musical odyssey, shedding light on the creative process from the inside looking out, as written by someone who was a first hand witness to many of these events as they unfolded. But that is merely my personal wish list, which should in no way diminish from this new and indispensible book. Nicholas Jennings' Lightfoot is a must read for the legions of followers of the legendary singer-songwriter's music the world over.  

- Wayne Francis



GORDON LIGHTFOOT
by Alfrieda Gabiou
A very nice description of Lightfoot's career up to 1977, quoting many newspaper
and magazine articles to illustrate her points. Contains a wide selection of rare photos.

Published by Gage - 1979
ISBN 7715-94992

HEART OF GOLD
by Martin Melhuish
30 Years of Canadian Pop Music - Contains section devoted to Lightfoot
Published by CBC Enterprises - 1983
ISBN 0-88794-112-5 (bound) ISBN 0-88794-110-9 (paperback)

CHASING THE DRAGON
by Cathy Smith
Autobiography by Lightfoot's former girlfriend - Contains several chapters
on her time with Lightfoot.
Published by Key Porter - 1984
ISBN 0-919493-50-5

LIGHTFOOT: IF YOU COULD READ HIS MIND
by Maynard Collins
Very disappointing effort. Contains numerous factual errors and glosses over Lightfoot's vast
musical accomplishments, instead rehashes many already well documented Lightfoot tales.
The author doesn't seem to grasp the depth of Lightfoot's music and his high place and degree of
influence in the realm of past and present singer-songwriters. The definitive Lightfoot biogaraphy
remains unwritten.
Published by Deneau - 1988
ISBN 0-88879-139-9

MUSIC OF OUR TIMES
by Marco Adria
Eight Canadian singer songwriters - Contains section devoted to Lightfoot
Published by James Lorimer & Co. - 1990
ISBN 1-55028-317-0 (bound)  ISBN 1-55028-315-4 (paperback)

SOME DAY SOON
by Douglas Fetherling
Essays on Canadian songwriters - Contains section devoted to Lightfoot
Published by Quarry Press - 1991
ISBN 1-55082-000-1

PHANTOMS OF THE ORILLIA OPERA 1895-1995
by Donald W. Jenkins
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Orillia Opera House a commemorative
book is done, with a brief forward written by Lightfoot. There are numerous
references to Lightfoot in the book, with one chapter dedicated entirely to his
many benefits played there and to his overall support of the building and to
Orillia itself.
ISBN 0-9699346-0-2

BEFORE THE GOLD RUSH
by Nicholas Jennings
An in depth look at the Toronto music scene of the 60's, focusing on the
Yorkville district and the many talents who had their beginnings there, with
Lightfoot very prominent among that crowd which included the likes of Neil
Young, The Band and Joni Mitchell.  Numerous references and photos of
Lightfoot are included in the book.  An interesting read.
Published by Penguin Books - 1997
ISBN 0-670-87381-0
IN MY OWN KEY
by Liona Boyd
Canadian classical guitarist Liona Boyd devotes a chapter in her
autobiography to her time touring with Lightfoot as his opening act in the
mid-seventies.  A unique insight into that very heady period in Lightfoot's
career.  Boyd displays her deep affection for Lightfoot and an honest
gratitude for the wonderful boost he provided to her career by opening her
up to his more mainstream, non-classical audience during that period.
Lightfoot contributes an endorsement on the back cover.
Published by Stoddart - 1998
ISBN 0-7737-3121-0

GETTING OUT OF HERE ALIVE - THE BALLAD OF MURRAY MCLAUCHLAN
by Murray McLauchlan
This book is surprising on two fronts. First, Lightfoot has long been ackowledged by
McLauchlan as an influence, helping hand and friend, yet this book contains no reference
to those things and gives Lightfoot scant mention. More surprisingly, the scant mention
Lightfoot does receive is in very unflattering terms. A very unbalanced and disappointing
effort from McLauchlan.
Published by Viking - 1998
ISBN 0-670-875659-3


WRITING GORDON LIGHTFOOT
by Dave Bidini
An unauthorized, semi-fictional account of Lightfoot, using the 1972 Mariposa Folk Festival and
  events of that year as a backdrop.
It's difficult to give this author any credence on the subject matter,
in light of his admission of spreading false rumours of Lightfoot plagiarising, then refusing to retract
his comments when proven wrong. And on top of everything else, pasting Gordon's friend
Bob Dylan on the cover, smacks of cheap exploitation. It's more the kind of book
you'd expect from someone like Kitty Kelley.
Published by McClelland & Stewart - 2011
ISBN 978-0-7710-1262-4



LIGHTFOOT
by Nicholas Jennings
A comprehensive Lightfoot biography.
Published by Viking - September 19, 2017
ISBN-10: 0735232555
ISBN-13: 978-0735232556