'Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind' Review: This candid look at the legendary artist is a must watch
Despite being very private, the folk-rock great revealed himself a little more than he usually does for the docufilm
With a career spanning decades since the '60s, Gordon Lightfoot has not only become a celebrated and highly respected musician but a cherished artiste. Director-writers Martha Kehoe and Joan Tosoni have understood this and created an unprecedented documentary featuring the folk-rock legend. With 91 minutes of exclusive footage and interviews, the 'Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind' documentary explores Lightfoot's career, music, influence as well as his extensive influence on other artists.
In an interview with MEA WorldWide (MEAWW), Kehoe and Tosoni who "have worked with Gord for many years" said that Lightfoot "revealed himself a little more than he usually does," adding, "He's a very, very private man, but I think he wanted to share more with us than he usually does. He's always up for an interview and everything like that but I think he knew this one had to go a little deeper."
The film does well to present Lightfoot's newfound desire to open up. There are numerous moments where his candidness appears to intriguingly humbling. At the beginning of the film, Lightfoot criticizes his own work, even showing distaste for one of his own songs '(That's What You Get) for Lovin' Me'. After Lightfoot shared that he stopped performing it "because I just don't like it", he and his wife Kim are seen watching earlier footage of the song and Lightfoot tells her, "Okay, I hate this f**kin' song, so let's move on." Lightfoot is anything but shy in front of the camera, but the documentary portrays a man who wants the audience's attention diverted from himself to music.
There is a humorous scene where Lightfoot hurries to care for his babies: "I forgot to water my guitars last night," he says, explaining, "They've got to be kept watered like flowers." Like a passionate lover for the tools of his music, he adds, "When I'm on stage I like to hear the sound of the wood and not the wires."
Lightfoot also shares unspoken truths that few musicians would talk about on camera. "Every time I would have an album coming out, The Beatles would eat us alive with record sales," he reveals. "Was there envy amongst recording artists over sales? Well, sure there was," he exclaims. "If you felt envious, you'd sit down and write another album, try to do better."
A notable segment of the film highlights a slew of musicians who have covered his songs including Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Paul Weller, and many more. Lightfoot, who continuously shows his respect for other artists in the film, says, "I've never heard a cover I didn't like." Tosoni noted, "He's very appreciative of the artistes that have covered his material."
When it comes to its musical content, 'Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind' is filled to the brim with Lightfoot's songs. Footage of him performing are aplenty and his songs play as background accompaniment to fitting scenes and intervals. The documentary also features exclusive interviews with Gordon's peers and artists who can account for his iconic reach, as well as behind-the-scenes stories from members of his longtime band, such as Ian and Sylvia Tyson, Randy Bachman, and Steve Earle; famous fans Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee from Rush, Anne Murray and Sarah McLachlan. Even actor Alec Baldwin sits down for an interview to share his love for Lightfoot.
The documentary, with its intimate look and the legendary Canadian singer-songwriter, takes the audience from high school auditoriums in straight-laced, small-town Ontario in the '50s to the coffee houses of Yorkville and Greenwich Village in the '60s, through Lightfoot's turbulent, substance-fueled arena shows of the '70s, and finally to the artist in his present day. 'Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind' is a must-watch for any fan.