Maybe it’s because they share a name and profession, but when iconic Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot passed away on May 1st of this year, James Gordon’s phone started to ring with fans asking if there would be a Guelph tribute and would he be organizing it.
To James, the number of inquiries and the outpouring of affection and grief over Lightfoot helped him to understand the full extent of the impact that the great Canadian had on so many.
At the same time, James has been working hard on a major advocacy project that he is co-ordinating: The Tumaini Letu DRC Project, so he has initiated the tribute as a fundraiser for this important cause.
The Project came about after James visited Africa earlier this year and heard of the plight of a village in the Congo that has no water, limited food, no health care or education, and a dangerous political environment. From his experience as an activist and a former Guelph City Councillor, he’s been able to create partnerships and plans that, with adequate funding, will bring much needed relief to this village in crisis. More info about this project can be found at https://jamesgordon.ca/the-tumaini-letu-drc-project .
Gordon, (the James one)- was thrilled with the number of local musicians and volunteers who have come together to make ‘Minstrel Of The Dawn’ a great concert experience, a good way to support a cause, and a fitting celebration of a songwriter who was a big influence on James’ career and the career of two generations of Canadian writers and performers.
With so many local Guelph musicians volunteering their services, the tremendous impact Lightfoot had on the Canadian music scene became even more obvious. James’ own story is typical:
“Lightfoot was accidentally the first folk singer I saw live. I was just 10 years old- I was at the CNE in Toronto. Most kids would be spending their time in the Midway or the food building. I came across this guy with a guitar singing to a modest crowd at the Bandshell in the early afternoon and I was transfixed. The performer seemed to be speaking directly to me in a language that felt new. I didn’t know who he was, and it turned out that Lightfoot was just starting to break through into the mainstream with radio, mostly with other artists covering his songs, like Ian and Sylvia and ‘Peter, Paul and Mary’. A few days after that, I heard “Early Morning Rain” on the radio and I realized that it was the same guy I had seen at the ‘Ex’. Without really knowing it- this changed my life. I didn’t know it was called ‘folk music’ or ‘singer-songwriter’- I just knew I wanted to do that. And as luck would have it.. more than 50 years after that first encounter, I’m still doing it, still touring, still writing songs that might not exist if Gord hadn’t paved the way. When people ask what kind of music I play, and I answer ‘folk music’- invariably they reply- “Oh, you mean like Gordon Lightfoot?” He was the architect of Canadian Roots Music!”
Performers at the tribute include James himself along with Guelph-based performers Gayle Ackroyd, Greg Denton, Grant Campbell, John Farley, Brenda Lewis, Harri Palm, Preetam Sengupta and Hellion Ton, along with some great back-up musicians.
The concert is presented at Harcourt Church on Dean Ave. In Guelph, attendees of the concert will be pleased to see the efforts the church has made to make their sanctuary a welcoming performance venue.
Tickets are available in advance at https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/minstrel-of-the-dawn-a-tribute-to-gordon-lightfoot-tickets-634883201747 or at the door.