Today is the 71st birthday of Gordon Lightfoot. It is also the birthday of my grandmother, who died last year at the age of eighty-nine; and her namesake, our son, who is turning six today.
One of my most stirring squash memories involves Gord. Every year, the Cambridge Club in Toronto hosts a black tie dinner over (the American) Thanksgiving weekend as a part of their annual professional doubles tournament. Hundreds of guys stuff themselves into the bar at the club for drinks, speeches and sometimes some casual betting before heading into dinner. It is a heady time, not just because you are on the eleventh floor.
When I was there in November 2000, the speeches stopped and all of a sudden Gordon Lightfoot was standing on the bar, guitar in hand. He cranked out a beautiful version of Diamond Joe. It is a classic folk song, and it was magical to be standing just a few feet from the legend as he sang and strummed.
Clive Caldwell, the owner of the club and a former squash great, tells me that Lightfoot’s been a member of the Cambridge Club for three decades and that he’s a non-squash player: he lifts weights and runs the treadmill most days. Just before the 2000 tournament they asked him if he might play a song at the party. It has since become a Cambridge Doubles tradition (except when his health breaks down, like seven years ago when he went through a six-week coma, a tracheotomy, four other surgeries and three months in the hospital). In recent years, he’s been wearing a red dinner jacket. Easier to spot the genius.