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Life, death inspired Lightfoot's new album 0

Jane Stevenson, QMI Agency

A brush with death - just not his own - inspired Gordon Lightfoot's latest album.

"I was going to save it and have it released after my death," says the Canadian folk legend of All Live, a collection of 19 hits recorded between 1998 and 2011 that arrives Tuesday.

"But all of a sudden we lost our lead guitar player Terry Clements, wonderful guy, great friend, worked for me for 40 years in this band. I said, 'There will be some confusion here (with Clements' replacement), we better put this out now when we've got the band as it was then."

The result is his first live album since 1969.

Lightfoot's own status - alive or dead - was called into question in 2010 when news of his demise was reported, then retracted. Not imagined: the aortic aneurysm he suffered in 2002 and a minor stroke in 2006.

Still, that's not the reason 2004's Harmony was his last original album.

Instead, he's said he finds songwriting too isolating and time consuming.

"I consider what I do on stage to be every bit as creative as what I do in isolation. I lost a bit of the starch out of the top end of the vocal after the illness but it did not discourage me, it did not dissuade me in any way. I just have to do this.

"I love the work. I have a passion for it. Until (the road) tells me otherwise, there's no reason whatsoever to even entertain the thought of stopping. The only thing that can stop it is a health issue, that's all," Lightfoot says in his neo-classical mansion, located in the same Toronto neighbourhood where Prince previously lived.

The upscale surroundings aside, there still sits a rickety lawn chair where the 73-year-old singer-songwriter likes to sit, have a smoke and contemplate life as he stares out at the trees, manicured lawn and winding driveway.

In the living room, a wall is dedicated to The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald paintings, drawings and even a foam model.

A brief tour of the first floor reveals a major man cave - despite the fact the recently divorced (for a second time) musician has a girlfriend who lives in L.A. - with well-worn leather chairs, open crates of shirts he never wears anymore, books by fellow Canadians like Dave Broadfoot, his Order of Canada medal and a study-slash-music room.

Still, the cluttered interior is more winter cabin in the woods than high society clubhouse.

His favourite room? "Where I sleep," says Lightfoot, who will be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in June in New York City. "I like to hang out where I sleep and I keep a regular sked because I'm always preparing. I'm always wanting to stay prepared. Staying prepared is part of the challenge."


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