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Folk-rock legend Gordon Lightfoot to perform at Lucas Theatre

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Folk-rock legend Gordon Lightfoot to perform at Lucas Theatre

08 Mar 2017

At 78, Gordon Lightfoot is nowhere near retirement.

Often referred to as Canada’s greatest songwriter, Lightfoot still has plenty to say. On March 15, the folk-rock legend will perform at the Lucas Theatre.

“I’ve got a lot of friends in Savannah,” Lightfoot says. “We’re going to have a meet-and-greet after the show.

“I’m very fortunate. I have a great band, and we’re looking forward to getting down into Georgia again.

“I played lots of shows in Georgia,” he says. “I even wrote a song that mentions Savannah after having been there.”

Touring is something Lightfoot enjoys.

“There are 11 shows in this trip,” he says. “I enjoy the preparation that goes into it. It’s something we all look forward to. It’s planned well in advance.”

At an early age, Lightfoot was encouraged by his mother in his musical endeavors. He began his career as a child performer.

“I first sang at Sunday school when I was 5 years old,” he says. “It just went from there.

“I made a record in Grade 4 for Parents Day. It was made with one of those early recording machines that used to cut right into the plastic.

“From there on, I got involved in musical projects,” Lightfoot says. “I started songwriting when I was in Grade 12 and continued.”

It took Lightfoot a while to get established, but he was patient.

“I was filling up a catalogue,” he says. “By the time I got something recorded by a major entity, I’d been writing for years.”

Lightfoot’s many songs include “If You Could Read My Mind,” “Sundown,” “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” “For Lovin’ Me,” “Early Morning Rain,” “Steel Rail Blues,” “Ribbon of Darkness” — the list goes on and on.

“I find that if I sit down at the desk and think about my life and look inside myself, I get things done,” Lightfoot says. “I’m going to write travel songs, songs about being homesick, about being in love, unrequited love, trains, ships, planes, a whole combination of things from many different topics.

“I wrote songs about Vietnam, three or four of them,” he says. “I wrote another one about Desert Storm, like an onlooker looking on. As a Canadian, I have ways of making commentary that could have been described as protest songs.”

At his concerts, Lightfoot wants both audience members and band members to enjoy themselves above all else.

“What’s going to happen today is anyone’s guess,” he says. “We’re mostly lively with a good beat. We keep things moving.

“We don’t get into the heavy stuff. I do the songs people enjoy. They’ve stood the test of time.”

Most of the music is original.

“I’m classified as a singer/songwriter,” Lightfoot says. “I write and sing my own material. I have done material — just seven or eight tunes — by other writers, but have mostly stuck to my own.

“Bob Dylan has been a model for me in work ethic,” Lightfoot says. “I really do enjoy the work.”

In addition to recording gold and multi-platinum albums, Lightfoot has had songs recorded by some of the world’s biggest stars, including Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams Jr., The Kingston Trio, Marty Robbins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, Barbra Streisand, Johnny Mathis, Herb Alpert, Harry Belafonte, Scott Walker, Sarah McLachlan, Eric Clapton, John Mellencamp and many more.

Meeting Mick Jagger in Switzerland is a career highlight for Lightfoot.

“It was an interesting afternoon,” he says. “I played piano and sang songs for Mick and he played a couple for me on guitar.”

Another highlight was playing the famous Los Angeles nightclub Troubadour.

“That was the first place Elton John played in the U.S.,” Lightfoot says. “Then there was the time we opened for Peter, Paul and Mary at the Hollywood Bowl for 15,000 people.

“They had me opening for them there and at a big amphitheater in Washington, D.C. John Denver joined us on stage for a couple of things.

“John and I were good friends and I really admired his talent,” Lightfoot says. “He was a great singer and wrote great songs.”

Just as Denver tried acting in the 1977 film “Oh, God!” with George Burns, Lightfoot did two films, including “Harry Tracy, Desperado.”

“It starred Bruce Dern and Helen Shaver was the female lead,” Lightfoot says. “I was a supporting actor. I wanted to do it and they gave me a shot. I didn’t take any acting lessons, but I did have a meeting with an acting coach.

“The other film was ‘Hotel’ with James Brolin. I was an itinerant country singer who tried to give up alcohol,” Lightfoot says. “Two years after, I really gave up alcohol and was totally dry for 23 years.”

But the dry spell ended because Lightfoot says he “blew it one night.”

“I had a glass of wine for dinner and was out of the business for two years,” he says. “I got back on stage after 28 months.

“Now today, I’m going full steam. All my energy goes into the show.

“I have a lot of family obligations,” Lightfoot says. “I have six children by four different ladies and was married three times.”

His wife, Kim, is an American from Iowa. “She was in the film industry in California,” Lightfoot says.

Local fans can expect to hear all their favorite songs.

“In Savannah, we’re going to do ‘If You Could Read My Mind,’ ‘Sundown’ and ‘Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,’” Lightfoot says. “It’s going to be a toe tapper. We have fun doing it.

“My whole band is into it,” he says. “We don’t get corny. We try to keep it in the middle of the road, so to speak.”

IF YOU GO

What: Gordon Lightfoot

When: 8 p.m. March 15

Where: Lucas Theatre, 32 Abercorn St.

Cost: $55-$95

Info: 912-525-5050, savannahboxoffice.com

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