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acoustic guitar Arts & Entertainment music profiles

From a Distance: The Song


A telephone call changed the life of Julie Gold. Although she had solid management, steady gigs, and a powerful repertoire, she failed to progress as a singer/songwriter until becoming involved with the Greenwich Village singer/songwriter scene. Performing at open mikes, Gold was befriended by Christine Lavin, who became her mentor.

When Julie’s parents sent her a piano she played while growing up, the first song she wrote on it was titled “From a Distance.” Lavin sent a tape of the song to a rising star on the country/folk music scene.

While working as a secretary for HBO in New York, Gold received her life-changing phone call from Nanci Griffith. Nanci wanted permission to record “From a Distance” on her cross-over album, Lone Star State of Mind. The album and the song went on to become big hits.

“From a Distance” became even more popular and won a Grammy Award for Song of the Year when Bette Midler recorded it in 1990.

Here is my cover of the song accompanied by an original guitar composition.

This blog post is dedicated to Toby Aurora Bentley. Toby was taken from us too soon. May she rest in peace and love until we can welcome her back.

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acoustic guitar artists Arts & Entertainment music

Beautiful


I started out with the intention of learning the song “Beautiful” by Jim Brickman, and then stumbled upon a song by the same name taught by my good friend Jerry at Jerry’s Guitar Bar. Both songs are true to their titles, but the one by Brickman has some complex chords I’d have to figure out how to play. So, I took the easy way out and decided on “Beautiful” by Gordon Lightfoot because it comes with a tutorial. Please note: I really did try NOT to do another Lightfoot song, but here we go again.

Lightfoot had this comment about the song. “It’s about love fulfilled. One of those songs I’ve played every night for over a quarter-century, and I don’t get tired of it.”

Here’s my cover with help from Jerry.

Make the most of your time now because the world will get along just fine without you when your time comes.

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acoustic guitar artists Arts & Entertainment music

The Story Behind The Song


I’m always interested in the story behind a good song. “Carefree Highway” is one of Gordon Lightfoot’s most popular offerings. He released it on his Warner Reprise 1974 album “Sundown.” It has a free and easy feel and I found it relatively easy to learn.

Carefree Highway is the actual name of a section of Arizona State Route 74 in Maricopa County connecting I-17 to Darlington Drive near the town of Carefree. The Highway rolls through desert mountains, Saguaro cacti, and the mesas of Tonto National Forest.

Driving from one southwestern concert to another, Lightfoot saw the name Carefree Highway on a sign and thought it would make a good song title. He wrote it down and quickly added the lyrics on some scraps of paper. The song then hibernated in a glove compartment for eight months. Lightfoot says in one of his interviews that he almost forgot about it. Fortunately, he rediscovered the lyrics and wrote the tune for the song. Once released, “Carefree Highway” reached the top of the charts in the US and Canada.

In the lyrics, Lightfoot reminisces about a brief love he had with a woman named Anne when he was twenty-two. He wonders if Anne ever thinks of him as often as he thinks of her. In his song, “For Lovin’ Me,” released in1967, Lightfoot sings about all of the hearts he’s broken as a wandering lover who can’t be tied down. In “Carefree Highway,” the tables are turned. Anne quickly dumps Gordon. (Can you hear the cheering women in the background?) As a sidenote, Lightfoot no longer sings “For Lovin’ Me” since it is now politically incorrect.

Here’s my cover of “Carefree Highway.”

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acoustic guitar artists Arts & Entertainment music

Shadows Of Love


Gordon Lightfoot is one of those rare individuals who resides in the top echelon of his profession. It takes a huge deposit of raw talent, hard work, intestinal fortitude, and luck to reach the level of success Lightfoot has achieved in the music business. Amidst all of this recognition, Gordon remains a simple and straightforward man. He is a survivor with no plans to retire. At 83 years young, Lightfoot once dodged death when his manager found him lying on the floor of his dressing room with a burst aorta. Lightfoot has navigated numerous romantic relationships, spawned six children and five grandchildren, remained close with his offspring, and outlasted most of his contemporaries, not without some regrets.

When he comes on stage these days, Lightfoot often uses a misquote inaccurately attributed to Mark Twain: “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” In November of 2021, Lightfoot had the honor of re-opening the newly renovated Massey Hall in Toronto in a live performance. He has played the historic concert venue more than 160 times.

Lightfoot released his fifteenth original album in 1982 on Warner records. The songs on the album are slower and more contemplative than many of the songs he released in the prior decade. As is his custom, Lightfoot compiled the album’s songs from scraps of notes he collected in his briefcase and tapes he recorded at home.

Of the album’s title song, “Shadows,” Lightfoot has made a few somewhat vague comments. He says it was the best song he had at the time, and that it is about a particular problem he was going through in his life involving a man and a woman and nature.

I feel the song is quite beautiful. I’ve learned it the way Lightfoot plays it. Here is my cover of “Shadows.”

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acoustic guitar Arts & Entertainment folk music music

If You Could Read My Mind


I’m watching an interesting film titled “If You Could Read My Mind.” The Canadian documentary is about the life and career of Gordon Lightfoot.

Lightfoot arrived in downtown Toronto as a young man after growing up in Oridella, a small rural Canadian town. Since there were no clubs to play in at the time, Gordon landed a job in a bank to earn a living. Lightfoot was about to earn a promotion when he told his manager that he had decided to leave the bank to accept a role as an extra on a square dancing Canadian TV show. Lightfoot’s manager found it hard to believe that the young man was leaving a good job with a future to go square dancing.

As folk music became commercially viable in the late sixties, clubs began to spring up featuring promising musicians. Gordon landed a spot in one of them. He stood apart from the crowd because he performed many of his own songs in a characteristically pure voice. After he developed a following, a club owner invited Lightfoot to perform at his club across the street at twice the salary. Lightfoot gratefully accepted the invitation to perform at the Riverboat, Toronto’s premier folk music club.

With his beautiful voice and prolific outpouring of quality music, it was only a matter of time before Warner/Reprise records rewarded Lightfoot with a one million dollar recording contract, an unheard-of number for a Canadian singer. His first album with the new label was released in 1970 when Gordon was forty-two. Lightfoot had left United Artists after five albums because he felt they did not represent him adequately. “Sit Down Young Stranger” shipped 80,000 copies before sales stopped dead. The album “had no legs” in the industry’s parlance. Warner changed the name of the album and picked a new single to lead it off. “If You Could Read My Mind” became a runaway hit when an announcer on an important local radio station kept playing it. Sales of the album ballooned to 650,000 copies. The rest is history.

Here’s my cover of the song.

Gordon Lightfoot is not a “legend in his own mind” as Dirty Harry said about the perp he was about to blow away. Lightfoot is a genuine “legend in his own time.” He has been performing live well into his seventies and beyond. It is said that time waits for no man. Time may have made an exception in Mr. Lighfoot’s case.

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acoustic guitar Arts & Entertainment music

Another Slice of “American Pie”


Don McLean released his iconic album, “American Pie,” in 1971. The title song epitomizes the era of the nineteen sixties. A famous lyric from the title song; “the day the music died,” refers to the day Buddy Holly’s plane went down. Holly and the other passengers, including Ritchie Valens and The Bigg Bopper, all died in the crash. The song “American Pie” goes on for some nine minutes to memorialize other landmark events of the era in rich metaphors. Some of the other outstanding songs on the album include, “And I love You So,” “Crossroads,” “Empty Chairs,” and “Vincent.” I’ve covered these songs in earlier posts on this blog.

“Winterwood” is an upbeat love song featuring McLean’s typically vivid imagery. Technically, the title of the song does not exist in the English language. McLean invented the name to evoke the sights and sounds of a snowy mid-winter day with the sun peaking through barren tree branches and birds chirping in the background. The image came to Mclean as he rode through mid-winter streets recalling fond memories with his wife by his side. The image and the related memories stayed with the artist for six months until he finally wrote “Winterwood.”

The technique is a departure from the finger-picking method I used in many of the other songs I’ve posted. “Winterwood” is played entirely with a guitar pick (flat picking). I abbreviated the introductory lick because it might have taken me six months to learn.

Time and Opportunity Wait for No One.

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acoustic guitar Arts & Entertainment music

True Colors


“True Colors” is a song with legs. It started out as a song written for a mother in a traditional ballad format. Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly wrote the song in 1986 and offered it to Anne Murray, a popular singer at the time. Murray passed on the song. Cyndi Lauper took it and creatively revamped the format into a stark and breathtaking version.

The song became a hit worldwide because of its universal appeal. The songwriters acknowledge that Lauper was the perfect artist to adapt the song partly because of her bold style. Released as the title song on Lauper’s 1986 album, “True Colors,” is the only original song on the album that the artist did not help to write.

In 1998, Phil Collins covered the song on his “Greatest Hits” album. Australian country music star Kasey Chambers covered the song as the theme for the 2003 Rugby World Cup. In 2007, Cindy Lauper launched “The True Colors Tour” to support gay rights and fight hate crimes. In 2016, Justin Timberlake and actress Anna Kendrick used the song in the soundtrack for the movie “Trolls.” Kodak also used the song to advertise their film stock.

Like I said: The song has legs. Here’s my version.

When someone shows you their true colors, don’t try to repaint them.

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Arts & Entertainment folk guitar music

Beauty of the Bells


Have you ever heard of Steve Gillette? If you were alive in the 1960’s and liked folk music and folk ballads, there’s a chance the name rings a bell. Gillette never made it to the top of the charts, but he’s a very talented singer/songwriter. Many of his songs have been performed by artists you have heard of like John Denver, Gordon Lightfoot, Ian and Sylvia, Nanci Griffith, and Linda Ronstadt.

Steve has recorded seven solo albums. In 1989, Steve married Cindy Mangsen. Together, Steve and Cindy have recorded seven albums while touring across the country for decades. Steve and Cindy are truly wandering minstrels.

The Bells In The Evening appears on Gillette’s debut album released in 1967. In my opinion, the album, simply titled “Steve Gillette”, stands as one of Steve’s finest recordings. “The Bells” is a bittersweet (actually sweet bitter) song of love blossoming in the spring and fading away in the fall. It’s a song full of immense joy and sorrow that combine in a mixture of awesome beauty. The song is also replete with imagery. When you listen, what images come to your mind?

Please enjoy my version of “The Bells In The Evening.”

“Our actions entrench the power of the light on this planet. Every positive thought we pass between us makes room for more light.”

John Lewis

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music

“Give Yourself to Love”


Female Folk Singer Image Representing the Late and Great Kate Wolf

Kate Wolf came to prominence during a ten year period from 1975 to 1985.  Tragically, Leukemia brought Kate’s life and singer/songwriting career to a premature end at the age of forty-four. In the brief time she had, Kate managed, in her gentle way, to become a major influence on the folk scene with songs like, “Give Yourself to Love,” “Across the Great Divide,” “Green Eyes,” “September Song,” and many more.  In all, she wrote over two hundred songs, a prodigious output considering Kate’s foreshortened career.

The appeal of Wolf’s music is the same today as it was when she released her first album on her Owl Records label more than 30 years ago. Millions of fans around the world remain loyal to Kate and her music. She continues to attract new fans, like me, with her abundant legacy.

I want to thank Gena Netten for introducing me to “Give Yourself to Love” and the incredibly beautiful music of Kate Wolf.

Give Yourself to Love