Gordon Lightfoot, After All These Years

There are no photographs that I can find (we probably didn’t own a camera), of the days when Dad, my brother John and I used to play the ukulele.  There are just so many tunes to play around the campfire on a ‘Uke’ but I remember them including Yellow BirdMichael Row The Boat AshoreDown In the Valley and Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.

Dad got us interested in stringed instruments very early in our lives.

Christmas St. Sylvestre

 

Whenever we gathered with friends or went camping, we had sing-songs.  In fact, we grew up surrounded by music.  Our military life took us on many family road trips and Sunday drives and all of it involved singing a repertoire of folk songs, big band era music like Abba Dabba Honeymoon,  Moon River and Mack the Knife and funny songs like “One Man Went to Mow“, There’s a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea...well, you get the idea.

Dad also owned a beautiful Gibson guitar.  Nothing made me happier than listening to him sing songs, while playing that guitar.  There are no photographs of the Gibson, but I’m certain that my father and siblings remember it as though it was yesterday.  It was a family treasure.  Dad shared…

“I was given that beautiful Gibson from our neighbour across the street from us on Briar Hill Drive in Battle Creek, Michigan. I am sorry I cannot remember their names, but they were certainly good friends of ours throughout my tour there. He was a Lt.Col in the USAF Reserve and taught high school.  One of the humorous things I remember was Mom giving him a 1 quart and a 1 pint milk bottle that somehow came with us on the move. He was so excited since he would use them during his 2 hour course on Canada. That was the total length of time for their history of Canada.  Anyway he came over one day and had the Gibson with him. He told me that it had been owned by quite a famous country singer and was given to him. It honestly looked like it had just come from the factory it was such a beautiful instrument. I simply adored it and learned to play somewhat from a book.(just our usual camping songs.).”

Because of this inspiration around stringed instruments, when I got a regular summer job at The Deluxe restaurant in North Bay, Ontario, I decided to buy my very own guitar.  I spotted the one I wanted in a music shop window on Main Street and began saving up my tips.  By end of summer, I made the purchase of my Yamaha Classical guitar…something I decided on so that I could play with ease because of the give of the classical strings instead of the resistance of steal strings.  I’ve treasured that guitar for ever since.  Yes…it’s gone out with my own kids to campfires and parties…but, it hung in and makes a beautiful sound to this day.

At the day of my purchase, I also bought a song book of Gordon Lightfoot songs.  The thing about this particular book, the chord illustrations appeared above the appropriate words, so I figured, like my Dad before me, I could teach myself to play guitar.

From 1960 until 1963, Gordon Lightfoot became a household name in Canadian homes.  He was and still is a wonderful song writer…optimistic writing, surfacing during what came to be known as the Folk Revival (just before the huge movement of Beatles music across North America and the world.)  I wasn’t like my brother, John, who next door to me in Great Falls, Montana, in a neighbouring bedroom, played the Grateful Dead and Gregg Allman.  I was playing Dylan; Buffy Ste. Marie; Peter, Paul & Mary; The Mamas and the Papas, Pete Seeger and Gordon Lightfoot.

In the end, it turns out that my older brother, John, became a person I would always admire for his ability on guitar.  He had the ear for music and was a natural.  He felt the guitar and released its spirit, where I would be measured and predictable.  I think he spent some years playing at gigs as well, and given his home in Sault Ste. Marie, he moved towards a Bluegrass style.

Once I moved to Lethbridge and attended University, I continued to appreciate more mellow voices and music, enjoying Valdy, Bruce Cockburn, Bette Midler, Cat Stevens and Paul Williams.  Somewhere along the line, I bought myself a Three Dog Night album.  It seemed that I never really had a lot of money…still don’t…so accessing concerts and getting out for musical events didn’t really happen until I ‘grew up’.  I did, however, listen to other people’s music and so became exposed to a lot of Cabaret music in the day, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Peter Frampton and Grace Jones…on and on it went from there.

Summers and Christmases, traveling back home to share times with Mom and Dad, the guitars came out…and always there were sing-songs.  Mom always asked me to play and I did.

singing and group 4 Two

singing and group 4

Family reunions brought together a large group of very talented people, many of them sharing guitar during the programs.  Cecil, Jo-Anne, my brother, John…Dad…

singing

Kath and John Reunion 1984

There have been a lot of back yard, under-the-tree sorts of moments…sitting in the stair well at the U of L, singing my heart out.  Living in residence was isolating at times.  The guitar filled lonely moments.

 

Gloria

Singing at weddings…oh my gosh, I’ll never forget not being able to find my beginning note during Lord of the Star Fields.  But things went well when I played and sang I Will and also For Baby.

Gloria's Weding

There was never the chance or the opportunity to pick up a Gordon Lightfoot ticket before this recent purchase.  But, long-story-short (fail)…last evening I had the chance to attend a concert where 78 year old Gordon Lightfoot came to Calgary, I felt, to sing just to me.  I purchased the ticket some time ago.  Without a partner, I’ve had years to practice not being shy about attending events on my own.  Strategically, when something comes up on my radar,  I pour over the seating maps for the venues and select the best single seat that I can find for that event.  Last night, I ended up in the second row of the Grey Eagle Casino Theater, with an unobstructed view of Lightfoot.  A father and teenaged daughter duo were sitting to my right.  I felt a bit sorry for the daughter because after every tune, the Dad would turn to her and say, “Did you like that one?”

To my left, two Ya Yas sat down just as the show began, a little envious of the cold gin and tonic that I was sipping, having arrived in time to access the bar line before the performance.

DSC_0254

I felt that the performance last night was all about good song writing.  The lyrics, beautiful narratives, for the most part, were exquisite.  I was filled with admiration for this person…for a career of dedication, struggle, and sideways living-gone right.  I really listened to these lyrics for the first time and saw them as very positive.

I got teary at the point where Gordon Lightfoot began singing The Minstrel of the Dawn…and that continued until the end of the song. Many of his songs moved me, but this one, the most.

Lightfoot is good humoured about his abilities.  He has a great lead guitar that provides the thread of his former performances.  His voice is weaker than in the past, but has all of that quality that is endearing.  Some songs were performed as shorter versions of themselves, out of need to entertain the crowd with the ‘old familiars’, but Lightfoot performed his most recent writing in its entirety and with enthusiasm.  I was really impressed.

I can’t tell a lie.  As I listened, I thought about my Dad.  I thought about what a gift it must be (and I have some experience of this already) to be able to continue to delight in your talents after so many years.  Dad, at 86, is in a choir and continues to carry the magic of his Irish tenor voice whenever he interprets music.  I was impressed by Gordon Lightfoot last night and was moved in a remarkable way.  As we move into our later years, we need to do what we can to continue nurturing our gifts.  I’m posting a video here.  I hope you will take the time to listen to the interview and then, listen to the song.

Music is something we hold inside of us…like DNA.  The stories that we carry in us are, for the most part, bits and pieces of the music we have cherished in our lives.  Live music can never be underestimated for its impact on us.

Post Script: The Next Generation

 

Gorilla House LIVE ART: November 27, 2013

I was distracted by all sorts of things after my day of guest teaching.  There were so many things going on that I lost track of time.  An interesting concept…LOSING TRACK OF TIME.

In a couple of the language arts classes yesterday, the students were reading chapters from their novels and this gave me opportunity to read from mine.  I always try to carry a novel with me, but most often don’t have the chance, during the day, to read.  I had finished  A Rhinestone Button by Gail Anderson-Dargatz the night before and so selected one l had picked up at a second hand shop some time ago. Amazing book!  My Mother’s Ghost by Fergus M. Bordewich!  A memoir, this book fell into my hands when I most needed it.  The thing is…the intensity and the authentic voice, somehow impacted the way I saw everything after setting the book down.  Honestly, for me, this is an always-event, when I am reading a well written book.

I realize that I spend an excessive amount of time considering family, family history, family stories, family records and family photographs…and I am always seeking out a resolution to this sense of nostalgia and memory that pervades most things I do.  Fergus M. Brodewich seemed to be on the very same road in his novel…and so, more than once, my eye brows turned up.  His is a memoir that deals almost exclusively with the resolution of reality and memory.  A rich amazing story!

The story stuck…and so, I painted it.

My focus…the John Lennon lyric, In My Life.

There are places I remember all my life
Though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain

All these places have their moments
Of lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I loved them all

And with all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these mem’ries lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new

And I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I loved you more

And I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I loved you more
In my life I loved you more

I pulled out the iconic photograph of Yoko Ono and John Lennon taken by Annie Leibovitz, hoping to capture, in a painted sketch, the contrast of light world resting up against dark and to allow the wood grain to inform that composition.  I didn’t particularly want to go into a busy social environment…I was feeling pretty singular…so, I pulled out pencils and did some sketching at home.

It was quite late when I headed down to ‘the house’…and I only had about an hour to paint ‘this thing’.  I was grateful to find a fairly quiet place next to my friend, Jen, at the table…my back to a wall…a very rare experience when painting in that public space.  I had a couple of  conversations with people.  I treasure those.  (Jen finished early and she headed across the street to her apartment to pick up her four liter of chocolate milk to share with people at the Gorilla House…she just didn’t think that there was any way she could drink it all before the stale date.  I share this wee tale because it gives you the idea of how close knit we’ve become at the Gorilla House.)  Last night, painting was a quiet, introspective act.
P1140363
Thank you to Teresa, for purchasing my piece at auction.  Thank you, Rich Theroux, for the hug and to Enriquito for being there.  Thank you, to the dear lady who is taking painting lessons at the Kirby Center…”I so appreciated your conversation and your dream to attend Thursday figure drawing.  I chatted with you for a good while.  I took your photograph while you sat in front of the beautiful purple canvas.”
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Anderson-Dargatz
Anderson-Dargatz
Anderson-Dargatz

Craig Cardiff, You ARE the BOMB!

If a person looks, they can find a Craig Cardiff lyric for anything they are thinking about…anything they are feeling.  He gave me a hug as I was waiting for dinner at the Ironwood the other night…that, after the hand shake, which, with creative people, is usually enough.  He passed me a book to write my thoughts down and then went about doing the same thing at most tables.  I drew a scene…it spilled out of me…and I thought about the full moon that was coming as I drew.

The music was so special.  I most appreciated that I had opportunity to share the music, good food and I nice bottle of Malbec with my cousin, Peter.  Our conversations are always deeply personal and all-encompassing.  We ‘don’t beat about the bush’, as some folk would say. Recently, I’m of the mind that life is too danged short to mess about contemplating whether or not you should or should not share your true feelings.  So, forgive me, if you’ve been the subject or the result of my tirades.  I’m not that great with boundaries these days, at least not where ‘the voice’ is concerned.  I’m speaking more.  I love Craig Cardiff’s music for  that very reason because I think that he’s ‘saying it’.

I like that he signed my cd…and spent time signing it, instead of thinking that the interaction was solely about his signature…instead, with this musician, it’s about the interaction.  I liked that.  I’m posting the song that spoke to me most remarkably, that is, after the When People Go thing…that one speaks to me the most.

Dance Me Outside reminds me of my love for the book The Diviners by Margaret Laurence…the moment in the beginning chapters when Morag’s daughter, Piquette, asks what a buffalo looks like…this, a question posed in the Manitoba landscape where once, myriads of buffalo ranged free.  That exchange was one of the reasons I became a landscape painter in the day…long story.

Photo Credit: Kathleen Moors

Photo Credit: Kathleen Moors

P1140121

 

 

This Indian girl walks out into traffic
The traffic stops then she’s causing havok and baby won’t you
Roll up the windows dial up on the cellphones
Get the cops to get out here
I just want to get home

She says, “Well, do you remember the all buffalo?”
And all the dumb white people say, “Do you mean Jimmy Neil Young Springfield?”
She says, “No”
But Cleveland isn’t the home of Indians
And not even Eskimos it feels like you just don’t want to know

She says; “Take me around
Dance me outside
Show me a place where we might hide
and oh, what I want I’m afraid that you can’t afford to buy”

This Indian girl
Spins like a toy top
And her hair spreads out like fire and it’s like she just can’t stop
And then the cops come
Donut guard state car
Rolling up along the side
With the fire lanterns burning
The sirens opened wide and they say
“Excuse me little miss I’m afraid its time to take this home”
And they try to get her address
She says, “Sorry I don’t have one
It’s only we and the feeding fields
And look where you are”
And she kicks at the hem of her skirt
And on go the cars

She says; “Take me around
Dance me outside
Show me a place where we might hide
and oh, what I want I’m afraid that you can’t afford to buy”

This indian girl
Feeling cold and tired
Wouldn’t mind some help then
But the cars go by it’s no wonder why
‘Cause all they want to do is go and get away
“All I wanna do,” she says, “is get away from here”

So she builds a fire
And all through her belly
And through her hair and bones
And to remind her that shes alive she stares at in awe

And she says; “Take me around
Dance me outside
Show me a place where we might hide
And oh, what I want I’m afraid that you can’t afford to buy”

“Take me around
Dance me outside
Show me a place where we might hide
And oh, what I want I’m afraid that you can’t afford to buy”

Old Ideas: World Tour

Leonard Cohen is not a musician who I thought would do well on ‘the big stage’.  I couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t be performing at the Jubilee Auditorium instead of the Scotiabank Saddledome, but I was so blessed by the opportunity to see him, at all, that I didn’t hesitate to purchase tickets early.  In the end, he transformed this huge arena into an intimate place of heart felt music and poetry.  It was one of the exceptional musical moments of my life (and there have been many), especially while flanked by one daughter  and my son.

Cohen was extremely generous, with both the commitment and the emotion behind his concert.  The musicians that backed him up were brilliant and I managed tears through several moments; for the beauty of the music, the memories resonating, and the sense of being a part of a very long history.  I do envy the many generations who have sat in intimate spaces with Leonard and his music, but I’m so very grateful for the experience of his passionate voice filling up such a huge space.

One of the most profound moments for me was when he recited the poem, A Thousand Kisses Deep.

How spectacular is it that an artist, seventy-eight years of age, is able to sing a 31 song set…with such rich and complex lyrics?  Leonard Cohen has been a blessing in my life through his writing and his music.

This afternoon, I found the Book of Mercy in my favourite second hand shop.  Given that the Psalms sooth and comfort me so often, this will be a good read.

 

The Set List:

First Set

This Week In the Garden

Flowers are Red
by Harry Chapin

The little boy went first day of school
He got some crayons and started to draw
He put colors all over the paper
For colors was what he saw
And the teacher said.. What you doin’ young man
I’m paintin’ flowers he said
She said… It’s not the time for art young man
And anyway flowers are green and red
There’s a time for everything young man
And a way it should be done
You’ve got to show concern for everyone else
For you’re not the only one
And she said…
Flowers are red young man
Green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than they way they always have been seen

But the little boy said…
There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one

Well the teacher said.. You’re sassy
There’s ways that things should be
And you’ll paint flowers the way they are
So repeat after me…..

And she said…
Flowers are red young man
Green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than they way they always have been seen

But the little boy said…
There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one

The teacher put him in a corner
She said.. It’s for your own good..
And you won’t come out ’til you get it right
And all responding like you should
Well finally he got lonely
Frightened thoughts filled his head
And he went up to the teacher
And this is what he said.. and he said

Flowers are red, green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have been seen

Time went by like it always does
And they moved to another town
And the little boy went to another school
And this is what he found
The teacher there was smilin’
She said…Painting should be fun
And there are so many colors in a flower
So let’s use every one

But that little boy painted flowers
In neat rows of green and red
And when the teacher asked him why
This is what he said.. and he said

Flowers are red, green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have been seen.

I loved words. I love to sing them and speak them and even now, I must admit, I have fallen into the joy of writing them. Anne Rice

I had to move John Clinock’s comment to the forefront and out of the comments section…it is just so dang beautiful!  Thank you, John.  And enjoy your painting retreat!!

“A friend’s son was in the first grade of school, and his teacher asked the class, “What is the colour of apples?” Most of the children answered red. A few said green. Kevin, my friend’s son, raised his hand and said “white”. The teacher tried to explain that apples could be red, green, or sometimes golden, but never white. Kevin was quite insistent and finally said, “Look inside.”
Anon.

Lectio Divina: “Look Into My Eyes”

Taking Pause

The writer’s intentions are not necessarily the only interpretation we can bring to music…sometimes the lyrics mean something else all together.  That’s why music is so interesting…music channels so much for us and is so universal, while at the same time, so very special to our own individual response.

Bryan Adams: Everything I Do

Look into my eyes, you will see
What you mean to me
Search your heart, search your soul
And when you find me there you’ll search no more

Don’t tell me it’s not worth tryin’ for
You can’t tell me it’s not worth dyin’ for
You know it’s true
Everything I do, I do it for you

Look into your heart, you will find
There’s nothin’ there to hide
Take me as I am, take my life
I would give it all, I would sacrifice

Don’t tell me it’s not worth fightin’ for
I can’t help it, there’s nothin’ I want more
You know it’s true
Everything I do, I do it for you
Oh yeah

There’s no love, like your love
And no other, could give more love
There’s nowhere, unless you’re there
All the time, all the way, yeah

Look into your heart, baby

Oh, you can’t tell me it’s not worth tryin’ for
I can’t help it, there’s nothin’ I want more
Yeah, I would fight for you, I’d lie for you
Walk the wire for you, yeah I’d die for you

You know it’s true
Everything I do, oh, I do it for you

Everything I do, darling
And we’ll see it through
Oh we’ll see it through
Oh yeah

Yeah!

Look into your heart
You can’t tell me it ain’t worth dying for
Oh yeah

I’ll be there, yeah
I’ll walk the wire
Oh, yeah

I’m going all the way, all the way, yeah

Adele has just got a CRAZY amazing voice!

“Someone Like You”

I heard that you’re settled down
That you found a girl and you’re married now.
I heard that your dreams came true.
Guess she gave you things I didn’t give to you.

Old friend, why are you so shy?
Ain’t like you to hold back or hide from the light.

I hate to turn up out of the blue uninvited
But I couldn’t stay away, I couldn’t fight it.
I had hoped you’d see my face and that you’d be reminded
That for me it isn’t over

Never mind, I’ll find someone like you
I wish nothing but the best for you too
Don’t forget me, I beg
“I’ll remember”, you said,
Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead.
Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead,
Yeah.

You know how the time flies
Only yesterday it was the time of our lives
We were born and raised
In a summer haze
Bound by the surprise of our glory days

I hate to turn up out of the blue uninvited
But I couldn’t stay away, I couldn’t fight it.
I had hoped you’d see my face and that you’d be reminded
That for me it isn’t over, yeah.

Never mind, I’ll find someone like you
I wish nothing but the best for you too
Don’t forget me, I beg
“I’ll remember”, you said,
Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead.

Nothing compares
No worries or cares
Regrets and mistakes
They are memories made.
Who would have known how bittersweet this would taste?

Never mind, I’ll find someone like you
I wish nothing but the best for you too
Don’t forget me, I beg
“I’ll remember”, you said,
Sometimes it lasts in love
But sometimes it hurts instead.

Never mind, I’ll find someone like you
I wish nothing but the best for you too
Don’t forget me, I beg
“I’ll remember”, you said,
Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead.
Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead.

Sam Baker

Of all of the acts at the folk festival this year,  Sam Baker was the performer who most spoke to my heart, with his simple narratives and his powerful messages.   I left the Sunday afternoon workshop in tears, after hearing his song, Broken Fingers and then Angels…both powerful and meant for me!  Please click on the hyperlink contained here, in order to read his story and the other, to sit and listen quietly to the song, Broken Fingers.  Given my journey this year, with a single broken finger on my dominant hand, I can only imagine what Sam’s efforts were in order to feel ‘whole’ again.  A powerful story!

I love the feeling of community that is a part of the annual Calgary Folk Festival…this was definitely another highlight to summer for me!