The documentary Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Apprehend My Mind, directed by Martha Kehoe and Joan Tosoni, is an affectionate attending at a abounding singer-songwriter who enriches and is accomplished by the history of Canada. Best of the apple knows Lightfoot as the accompanist with the apparent baritone who put out hits like “Sundown,” “If You Could Apprehend My Mind,” and “Early Mornin’ Rain.” But in his built-in country, he is a civic treasure. Afore all-embracing fame, in 1967, he absolutely wrote and performed a allotment alleged “The Tale of Canada” for the country’s 100th anniversary. After common renown, he mined abreast bounded history with the “The Bones of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”
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Lightfoot bent the achievement bug early. He was bristles back he debuted his arrangement of “I’m A Little Teapot” at St. Paul’s United Church Sunday Academy in Orillia. He would go on to abstraction composition, do time as a singing bagman in applesauce orchestras, Canadian Broadcast arranger, and affair player, alike recording with guitar fable Chet Atkins in Nashville in 1962 afore affective into folk rock. Working for a time with the aforementioned administrator as Bob Dylan, the two remained bound accompany as they both played Greenwich Village clubs and the folk circuit. Lightfoot performed an acoustic set afore Dylan took the date to ball electric for the aboriginal time, the documentary reminds us. They are apparent admirers of anniversary other’s works.
Lightfoot rose up the archive with hits like “Carefree Highway,” “For Lovin’ Me,” and “Rainy Day People.” Besides Dylan, his songs were covered by Elvis Presley, Neil Young, Marty Robbins, Glen Campbell, Ann Murray, Harry Belafonte, Johnny Cash, Liza Minnelli and the Replacements. Frank Sinatra, however, anesthetized on recording “If You Could Apprehend My Mind” for actuality “too long,” according to the documentary. Lightfoot was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Acclaim in 2012 and alone his aboriginal affection anthology in 16 years, Solo, on March 20.
Quite a few musicians and music enthusiasts are agog about Gordon Lightfoot, and the documentary lets artists like Sarah McLachlan, Geddy Lee and Gordon Alex Lifeson of Rush, and The Assumption Who’s Randy Bachman explain what they abstruse advancing up, and Ronnie Hawkins talks about the fun of it. Alec Baldwin talks to the fan side, comparing Lightfoot to added anapestic singer-songwriters like Cat Stevens.
Martha Kehoe and Joan Tosoni, who co-directed Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Apprehend My Mind, batten with Den of Geek about the ballsy songs and alike added ballsy parties befuddled by Canada’s admired singer-songwriter.
Den of Geek: Is it federally allowable in Canada to be a Gordon Lightfoot fan?
Martha Kehoe: Gord is in a actual atypical position, and I anticipate Murray McLachlan affectionate of credibility it out in the blur back he says, “People were attractive about going, ‘Where’s our music, and where’s the Canadians’ stuff?’” And afresh all of a abrupt there it was. So it’s added aloof a bearings that Gord was a actual cogent artisan in Canada, and bodies were aloof admirers of him from the get-go. He came alternating at a assertive time and place, across Canadians were attractive for something, and he aloof had the talent, and he had the charisma, and bodies aloof admired him. We were aflame that there was addition that acceptable from Canada.
Joan Tosoni: And also, he was actual prolific. I mean, he was a hit-churning apparatus there for absolutely a few years.
Kehoe: Popping out records. He was very, actual accepted in Canada from the time of his aboriginal record, but Gord was never admiring with how those United Artists annal performed, so that’s why his accord with Warner was such a big deal, and that’s back he started accepting the all-embracing hits. He acquainted like the United Artists characterization didn’t absolutely apperceive how to advance him. He did a lot of soundtracks in those days.
Do best Canadians apperceive Gordon Lightfoot the way Americans know, say, Bob Dylan?
Kehoe: It’s a actual altered accord though. I anticipate Bob Dylan inspires some awe. Gord inspires awe but if you see Gord downtown, bodies smile at him, bodies say, “Hey, Gord.” They feel a little afterpiece to him, I would say, than bodies feel to Bob Dylan. Bob’s consistently been an enigma, and Gord, while actuality acutely clandestine and so forth, has approachability for Canadians. Canadians feel like we apperceive him a bit. I feel like Americans don’t feel as adequate with Bob Dylan as Canadians would feel with Gord.
Tosoni: I agree. And Bob Dylan has maintained a affectionate of, how do I alarm it? He’s advisedly maintained that distance.
Kehoe: He allegedly had to. The added affair is that Canadians, historically anyway, accept been a little beneath acute than Americans. So alike if you are a huge fan of somebody as a Canadian, you ability not say hi to them if you saw them in a restaurant. I anticipate everybody feels like Gord could be a acquaintance of theirs, admitting you don’t necessarily feel that with Bob Dylan.
How did you access Gordon Lightfoot about actuality in the documentary?
Tosoni: Well, we had been talking about it for years, but Gord acquainted he wasn’t ready. It was too anon for him. So back he was about 75, he said, “Okay, now it’s time. Let’s do it.” We did a basic shoot to accomplish a advance reel for funding, but it did booty us bristles years to get the complete allotment to do the film. So it was consistently in discussion, and we alone went advanced back Gord acquainted he was ready.
So it wouldn’t accept been fabricated after his input?
Kehoe: Well, we didn’t alike anticipate of that. His ascribe was a big allotment of it. We’ve done things about his career before, but we approved to accomplish this a affection film. Gord’s had a lot of profiles done on him. He’s done bags of promotion, but he’d never done annihilation that acquainted like you’d absolutely feel like you’d spent time with him. We capital to do article that was affectionate and absolutely accurate to Gord somehow.
Tosoni: Gord has done so abounding interviews. But I anticipate at this stage, he committed himself to maybe absolute added than he did in the accepted interviews. He accustomed the accent of a documentary that was activity to be added all-embracing and maybe accept to acknowledge added of himself than he had before.
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Kehoe: Although, honestly, back he aboriginal saw the film, his attitude… What did he say, Joanie? Was it jaw-boning?
Tosoni: Oh, yeah. “A little too abundant jaw-boning and not abundant music.”
Kehoe: That was his thumbnail booty on his aboriginal watching of the film.
Tosoni: We asked him back we had completed the blur and afore anyone had apparent it, if he capital to see it, because we were aperture at the Hot Doc Blur Festival in Toronto. And there was activity to be a big admirers of some VIPs, bodies in the film, et cetera. And we asked him if he capital to see it. He said, “Nope. I’ll see it with everybody else.”
Since that time, he’s apparent it with a few audiences, and he told me, “I absolutely like the blur now.” But if it had been up to him, it would accept been all music and no talk.
Did the Additional City absurdity “Gordon Lightfoot Sings Every Song Ever Written” appear up in conversation?
Kehoe: We absolutely didn’t allocution about that, but he would apperceive all those SCTV guys, and he would’ve begin that hilarious. He doesn’t apperception actuality lampooned, abnormally now. I anticipate he’s a lot beneath acute than he acclimated to be back he was a adolescent man. He talks about that in the film, that as a Canadian, he consistently acquainted like he was a little bit awkward, that he had a little bit of hay in his beard compared to some of the slicker bodies he acclimated to accommodated in the music industry. But he’s got a acceptable faculty of amusement about himself.
Tosoni: Burton Cummings does a affair back he’s onstage: “Lightfoot singing “Maggie May” and Gord action at it. He’s accept with it.
While I was cat-and-mouse for you to call, I was watching a video of Joni Mitchell jamming with Bob Dylan and Roger McGuinn at Gordon Lightfoot’s house. So I appetite to ask about his acceptability as a agitating bedrock and cycle affair host.
Kehoe: Yeah. He had that big abode in Rosedale for a continued time, and it was array of an actionable address for a accumulation of bodies that afraid out in Toronto. I say Gordon Lightfoot is affectionate of our Zelig or Forrest Gump. He’s met everyone. He’s been a allotment of every distinct arena in Canada. There’s never been a affair in Canada that Gordon Lightfoot couldn’t get into, and that’s now and then. And he hosted a lot of them too.
He consistently had array of an accessible aperture policy. Steve Earle told us a adventure about back he was in Toronto, and he’d been a fan of Gord’s. And they said, “Okay. Well, let us accomplish a call.” And somebody aloof collection him to Gord’s aperture and let him off and said, “We’ll appear and aces you up in a brace hours.” And Steve was like, “Oh, my God, what do I do now?” But they went in and played guitar for a brace hours.
Tosoni: And now whenever Steve plays in town, Gord goes and sits in the audience, this abounding years later.
Kehoe: Gord told us a little bit about Bob Dylan, because as we accomplish the point in the film, Gord has been a constant fan of Bob Dylan and still rhapsodizes about his aptitude as a songwriter. Gordon’s bound with Ronnie Hawkins. So back Dylan acclimated to appear up to Toronto to rehearse with the band, Gord would’ve been in on that scene. He was on the New York arena with his administrator there. He knew Joni Mitchell afore she’d alike had a hit song. He knew a lot of musicians, and he was a partier, and he admired to host parties. So yes, he was, and he acclimated to accept a lot of parties at the Continental Hyatt Abode as able-bodied in L.A.
Dylan is additionally abundantly a fan of Gordon’s, so were you afraid that such assorted musicians from Anne Murray to Rush would sing Gordon’s praises?
Tosoni: No, it wasn’t a surprise. We were aware. And in fact, one of our disappointments authoritative the blur was that we were cutting mostly in the summer. Once we got the ambitious in May, we had to alpha accepting interviews, and there were several bodies who were willing, Joan Baez actuality a above one. We would’ve admired to accept had Joan Baez in the film, but she aloof was on a huge tour, and we aloof couldn’t get a date across she was accessible to do an interview. And so, we do apperceive that he has a lot of added performers, with assorted backgrounds, that adore him.
Kehoe: And also, I do feel for that bearing of musicians, like the guys from Rush. As they say in the film, he was the aboriginal Canadian that got an all-embracing afterward and backward in Canada. There’d been a few bodies afore who had gone to the States and aloof abolished into the United States ball world. Gord was the aboriginal one that backward at home. So everybody like Rush and Anne Murray, they acclimated him as an archetype like, “Hey, this guy has hits on the radio. He makes a lot of money touring, but he still lives in Toronto. You don’t accept to go to the States to be acknowledged as a musician.” So that’s addition across breadth he absolutely was affectionate of a role archetypal for a lot of consecutive Canadian artists.
How did Alec Baldwin, who’s neither Canadian nor a musician, get involved?
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Kehoe: We were attractive for bodies that batten to altered aspects. And Alec had Gord on his podcast, and you could aloof acquaint from the podcast that he was a absolute fan. We accomplished out to a cardinal of people, and Alec played a nice role for us. Aboriginal of all, he’s a big star, so that’s accessible for your film, but he additionally is a actual clear music fan and knows a little about the industry. So he was able to allege about Gord as a fan, as addition who wasn’t Canadian, who didn’t accept that actual pull. He didn’t abound up alert to his music. He was a fan because the songs that were advancing on the radio, and we anticipation he did a rather nice job of articulating those points.
We absitively aboriginal on we didn’t appetite to accept a absolutely academic documentary, across we would accept a narrator and it would be array of all that. We capital it to be actual abundant a conversation, advance an intimacy. Alec was able to put calm a few altered things we anticipation were important that we capital to appearance the abyss and the across of Gord’s fans.
Tosoni: And interestingly too, he said yes immediately. We contacted his people, and we got a absolute acknowledgment appropriate away. It was a absolutely abundant acquaintance accomplishing that account with him.
Gordon Lightfoot aloof appear his aboriginal new anthology in 15 years. Did the documentary advance him into this or did you appear to bolt it at the appropriate time?
Tosoni: In the aboriginal 2000s, he had an aneurysm that about dead him, and he had aloof afore that accounting songs. He claims that he forgot about them, and he apparent them in his archives. In his home, he apparent this abundance accession of songs that he’d abandoned about. So he thought, “I’m activity to put them out, because they never got put out.” And afresh he was activity to add chart to them and a bandage and aggregate like that. And he absitively it was bigger aloof solo, so he brought out this new abandoned anthology of songs that he wrote 20-ish years ago.
You both had acquaintance in alive television, how is that agnate to filming the concert experience?
Kehoe: We did actual basal filming. Joan had already directed a alive concert in Massey with him about 2011. We had that, and we acquainted like that  concert at Massey Hall was affectionate of special, because Gord played assorted dates in Massey Hall, every year for abounding years. So admirers go to see him and there’s a actual different affectionate of affection that’s absolutely noticeable. It’s a banter amid the admirers and Gord. Bodies go there with their children, so the kids accept the experience. It’s aloof a actual appropriate affair to be a allotment of. And Massey Hall is actual carefully associated with Gord. It was closing for renovations, and they had asked Gord to accomplishment it out.
It’s array of his additional home, and we capital to awning the acquaintance of him actuality backstage and the vibe about him actuality at Massey Hall, so that’s how that was decided. But we didn’t do it with multi-camera and actuality like that, like we would do if we were accomplishing a TV show. We were cutting distinct camera aloof to get a few important moments.
Tosoni: Yes, but abounding of the clips that you see in the blur I directed or they were from programs that we had done in the past.
Did annihilation appear out during the filming? Any of the capacity abruptness you? I was afraid by the Cathy Smith story, the John Belushi connection.
Kehoe: Well, we knew about that, because that was rather famous, and a rather abominable scandal. Again, back annihilation like that happens from somebody from Toronto, anybody knows about it. So we knew about that, and we’d been absorbed a continued time in his accord with Cathy Evelyn Smith. And so, we affectionate of knew that, and we knew it was article bodies ability accept forgotten. You capital to accept some agitative “Wow” moments in the film, so that absolutely provided one. We begin that little blow of her actuality interviewed, and that was absolutely an absorbing clip, we thought.
I alike saw a account of him with Willie Nelson. Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan fabricated a lot of duets. Why do you anticipate Gordon wasn’t a celebrity collaborator?
Kehoe: I anticipate Gord is aloof absolutely a clandestine blazon of guy, and he is absolutely a perfectionist, and afresh I anticipate it makes him a little bit afraid assuming with added bodies of a assertive magnitude. I anticipate that he brand to ascendancy his own complete a lot, and I anticipate he would ball with anybody artlessly and off-camera, anyone, because we apperceive he does, and he has. But on-camera, he brand to be absolutely in ascendancy of his own complete and his own performance. I don’t know, that’s aloof a guess.
Tosoni: Yeah, I agree, and not alone on-camera, but in the studio. I anticipate that it was adumbrated in the film, he was actual authoritative in the studio. He had control. He’s in charge. And as anon as you’re accommodating with somebody, you lose that control, and maybe he wasn’t adequate with that.
Kehoe: That’s full-on speculation.
Lightfoot formed with the aforementioned musicians for years. You said he was array of controlling, but do they action as a band? Do they ascribe into arrangements, or were they aloof abetment musicians?
Kehoe: I anticipate they do accept ascribe into arrangements. I anticipate it’s a little bit of a combination. A lot of artists use flat musicians and afresh put a bandage calm to tour. Admitting Gord played with those guys for abounding years. He’s been with Rick for 50 years, and I feel like there is aloof a actual accepted quantity. But back they talked about “The Bones of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” they would’ve had some abstraction of what they were doing. But they all played along, and they acclimated the aboriginal booty as the song.
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Tosoni: Gord additionally does arrangements, but I anticipate he is accessible to ascribe from his band, and decidedly those he’s been with the longest. For example, he had Pee Wee Charles in his bandage for a few years, and I anticipate Pee Wee had a assertive abandon in the arrange because of the apparatus and because it was article new. I don’t apperceive if that’s absolutely true, but I anticipate he’s collaborative. But again, Gord has a lot of ascendancy and hears aggregate in his mind, and he’s additionally a music writer, because he can address the score.
What does “The Bones of the Edmund Fitzgerald” beggarly to the bodies about Basin Superior? It alone happened a year afore he wrote it. Is it still legend?
Tosoni: He plays it at every concert. It’s absolutely a favorite. And also, he came to apperceive the families of the men who were absent in that shipwreck. He agitated actual abundant about them and alike afflicted a lyric, one lyric about what acquired the biconcave was somebody larboard the bear open. They begin that wasn’t true, and he afflicted the lyrics so that wasn’t indicated, because he came to apperceive those people. They would appear to the concerts.
Kehoe: And he would go to memorials there too, so he’s been actual abundant in blow with all the survivors of the Edmund Fitzgerald, and it’s actual abundant on his apperception now. It was one of the alone things he batten to us about, caring how things were represented in the film. He gave us absolute carte blanche in the film, but he capital to accomplish abiding that the Edmund Fitzgerald capacity were as he knew them to be.
He additionally was a boater on the Abundant Lakes. Did the bones change how he approached the lake?
Kehoe: I don’t anticipate so, because I anticipate that if you’re a array of a leisure sailor in Canada, you’re not sailing in November. I anticipate November is freighters-only on the lakes, because of those things. So I anticipate what he had added than annihilation was a adulation of the lakes, a adulation of the islands there, and a adulation of that accomplished area. Gord additionally admired industry in a way that men of his bearing absolutely did. I anticipate he’s actual absorbed in all sorts of blue-collar walks of life, of guys that assignment on ships or miners, or the railroad. He aloof was absorbed with every aspect of that array of thing. Back he apprehend that adventure of the Edmund Fitzgerald, I anticipate Gordon’s a guy who sees balladry in things, and he sees epic-ness in the everyday. I anticipate that he absolutely acquainted that that was such a tragedy. As he says in the movie, if they’d fabricated addition 15 kilometers, they allegedly would’ve been safe. And I absolutely anticipate that he acquainted it was a tragedy that it adapted added notice. He capital to address an ballsy composition for this tragedy and for these sailors.
Which documentary filmmakers afflicted you?
Kehoe: Back I was at blur school, I met the Maisel Brothers. They came and talked. And obviously, the films that they fabricated Grey Gardens and Give Me Shelter, that’s affectionate of arena zero. I’ve consistently said that one of my admired films of all time is Nanook of the North, which was not absolutely a documentary, but it had assertive documentary elements. Ken Burns, there’s so abounding abundant documentary makers now.
Canada has additionally had a continued history of documentary. And the CBC, which is the civic anchorperson who was our anchorperson accomplice on this, has a absolute history of documentary, so that’s article as Canadians that we aloof grew up with. We acclimated to watch docs back we were kids. I’d be behindhand if I didn’t say the guy who is one of our controlling producers. John Brunton, who owns Insight Productions, fabricated a blur for TV in 1980 about Canadian music, and that absolutely afflicted me.
Tosoni: And me too. We didn’t absolutely alike apperceive anniversary added at the time, Martha and I, but we both had a bit of the aforementioned acquaintance of seeing that program. It was a alternation alleged Heart of Gold, based on the Neil Young song, but it was on the history of bedrock music in Canada, basically, pop and rock. And he had a adamantine time. Bodies laughed at him back he said he capital to accomplish this film. And back we saw it on TV, I was calling my accompany and saying, “You’ve got to watch this thing. If you absence allotment one, there’s two added parts. Watch it.”
As fate would accept it, we did the second. It’s now a trilogy. Martha and I fabricated Country Gold together, which was a three-hour series. And afresh Martha fabricated Ball Gold, which was on Canadian comedy.
He’s been covered by abounding artists. What are his admired covers of his, and what are castigation covers of his songs?
Kehoe: Sarah McLachlan covered “Song for a Winter’s Night,” and that’s absolutely lovely. While I was researching this, I heard the Harry Belafonte adaptation of that, and that was absolutely nice as well. Tony Rice is a bluegrass player, and he did a accomplished anthology of Gordon covers. And honestly, they’re all absolutely fantastic. Glen Campbell’s done some acceptable ones. Anne Murray, her adaptation of “Cotton Jenny” was affectionate of a hit in Canada. Obviously, Neil Young’s adaptation of “Early Morning Rain.”
Tosoni: And we can’t balloon Alison Krauss’ adaptation of “Shadows.” And additionally the Tragically Hip adaptation of “Black Day in July,” which is in the blur because Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip are very, actual admired in Canada. Downie died a year or two ago, and back we were authoritative the blur actually. We acclimated one that I admired in the blur and that’s the Diana Krall and Sarah McLachlan awning of “If You Could Apprehend My Mind.” I anticipate it’s absolutely beautiful. Gord says he’s never heard a awning he didn’t like.
It’s a abashment Sinatra tossed “If You Could Apprehend My Mind.”
Kehoe: Well, apparently, “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” hit the arena that night, aforementioned session, as well. So he was in acceptable aggregation of songs that were alone out of hand.
Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Apprehend My Mind will be appear in the U.S. on July 29.
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