Gordon Lightfoot, the 78-year-old singer behind hits like If I Could Read Your Mind, Sundown, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald and Carefree Highway, performs at Fraze Pavilion in Kettering on Monday, July 31. CONTRIBUTED

Gordon Lightfoot: The 78-year-old singer reflects on life and music

Gordon Lightfoot scored several hits in his native Canada before breaking through in the United States with his 1970 single, “If I Could Read Your Mind.”

The folkie-turned-pop star, performing at Fraze Pavilion in Kettering on Monday, July 31, followed that single up with hits like “Sundown,” “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” and “Carefree Highway.”

However, success came at a price. Lightfoot’s 10-year marriage to his first wife, Brita, ended in 1973.

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“When I was writing serious, hardly anybody could get to me,” Lightfoot said. “Of course, after my first marriage broke up I was single for 16 years. During that time I wrote about eight albums and I was just free. I hardly communicated with my family at all.”

Lightfoot wasn’t alone in that situation. When the music industry was in full force in the 1970s, artists were expected to release at least one new album each year and tour in between writing songs and recording the next release. This rigorous schedule contributed to many failed marriages.

“I feel badly I didn’t stay in closer touch with my family,” Lightfoot said. “They were all OK but I was incommunicado a lot of the time writing. That’s the problem with songwriting, it eats up time.”

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Today, the 78-year-old singer strikes a careful balance between work and his home life with his third wife, Kim.

“There are two worlds involved here now,” Lightfoot said. “I’ve created a family thing where I have six children and several grandchildren. You have to pay attention to these folks. We’re doing around 80 shows a year so sometimes we’re going back to back but other times we get as much as five or six weeks off in between.”

Lightfoot’s recording career and personal life are the subject of a new biography coming out in September by Canadian music writer Nicholas Jennings.

“Nick is a real good musicologist here in Canada,” Lightfoot said. “I’ve known him for a longtime and he’s written stuff about me before. We talked about doing this for a long time and then three or four years ago we decided to get on with it. We got in touch with certain people he wanted to talk to and he talked to me several times.

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“We covered a lot of ground, but in retrospect I probably could’ve covered more,” Lightfoot added. “I didn’t have anything controversial but I could’ve gone a little bit deeper. You remember things you forget about but I didn’t want to go, ‘Let’s change this and that.’ It will be what it is.”

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