Over the past 10 years, Gordon Lightfoot has endured a six-week coma, a tracheotomy, a mild stroke and rumors of his death. None of that has stopped the Canadian folk-pop legend from doing what he loves best, playing guitar and singing in front of rooms full of people.
The coma followed a ruptured artery in 2002. The tracheotomy kept him alive. Less than two years later, he was back on the stage singing again.
Lightfoot's 2006 stroke temporarily disabled two fingers on his right hand. That didn't stop him from playing a show less than two weeks later. He's worked to regain the use of his fingers since then.
Last year, a Twitter hoax spread the rumor of his death. He had to call a radio station in Canada to confirm he was very much alive.
Despite all that, Lightfoot, 72, is scheduled to play 65 live shows throughout North America before the end of 2011. He appears at Overture Center Sept. 15.
Musical performance has always been Gordon Lightfoot's vocation. He sang in his church choir and performed at local community festivals as a child. He moved to California for a short time to study music when he was 21. His first national tour of Canada came in 1967, after he was signed to a major label. By that time, he'd written "Early Mornin' Rain," a song made popular by Peter, Paul and Mary in 1966.
Lightfoot began touring worldwide in the early 1970s, when his popularity peaked. The songs for which he remains best known - "If You Could Read My Mind," "Sundown," "Carefree Highway," "Rainy Day People" and "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" - were all top-five hits in the Billboard Hot 100 between 1970 and 1976.
The golden age of folk-rock waned after 1976. Saturday Night Fever was released and disco boomed. Lightfoot never experienced major chart success again. But he's maintained his popularity as a performer.
Gordon Lightfoot has been touring for 45 years. And if the last decade is any measure of his commitment, he won't be stopping anytime soon.