Toronto in the 1970s, and much later.

You couldn’t escape the voice of Gordon Lightfoot in Toronto during the 1970s.  Believe me, I tried. His chords strummed down every block like the blowing autumn leaves of the maple trees lining the streets of my youth; Bloor, Ossington, Bathurst and Harbord. At a time when I wanted Motown and movement, friends draped themselves on verandah rails and plucked the strings to Sundown and Bitter Green. It seemed so ponderous, so monotonous.

The radios burgeoned with his story-crafting songs. Off Yonge Street, down Yorkville Avenue, in coffee houses and living rooms and on the beaches bordering Lake Ontario. Guitar chords drifted in the summertime breezes and in the wintertime, friends would gather with bottles of Black Tower and play Song for a Winter’s Night.

Almost every guy I dated endured calloused fingertips and my eyerolls as they struggled through the chord variations of If You Could Read My Mind. Craving the cut glass voice of James Brown and go-go boots, the troubadour sounds of Gordon Lightfoot felt dull and suppressive; kind of hard to dance to Pussywillows, Cattails. And there was no escape during camping vacations and long weekends when Carefree Highway was always a favourite around the campfire circle. As my foot tapped impatiently, The Summer Side of Life played endlessly.

I will admit to a brief flirtation with Black Day In July. It gave me pause. I listened to the words time after time, remembering the chaotic images I had watched on TV: Detroit, billowing smoke, rage, an astonishing display of guns and tanks. While Canada celebrated its’ centenary, Detroit was burning mad. And then Martin Luther King was assassinated. And Bobby. “Why can’t we live in peace?” It became the catalyst to books like The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Dispatches, the Vietnam War epic. Listening to the fire of CCR’s Fortunate Son, Canadian Railroad Trilogy paled and dripped into inconsequential. Black Day In July was not wearisome, but it was only one song, and it soon passed as other songs appeared.

Time moved on. I moved on.  The West became my new home.

The music in a farmer’s market usually mixes so well with the general hubbub that I can barely discern the tune much less the singer. Before the pandemic, but just after my retirement, I was wandering aimlessly among the pies and pottery when I heard the hint of something so familiar and velvety, something edged in long ago, but cushiony and dear. Nearing some benches, I sat down. An emollient memory, slightly gooey, stilled my movements. I was in the apartment of a friend on Lonsdale. It was celebratory and bottles of Mateus crowded the table. Guitars were practically mandatory. Sitting on chairs, the floor and stumps of wood, one by one the guitars came together, and the so