Some artists slow down accordingly with age. Then there’s Canadian folk-rocker Gordon Lightfoot, who, at 80, is busier than ever, with a current comprehensive American tour underway and an album of new material he’s releasing later this year. The Juno-Award-winning singer even was awarded a honorary doctorate of music from Lakeland University in his childhood hometown of Orillia in Ontario. But he hasn’t been writing anything new, he clarifies. He unearthed a treasure trove of material cached since 2002, when a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm put him into a six-week coma. “I love following current events,” he says from his current base of Toronto. “But I had all this stuff in storage from before the aneurysm, back when I was stronger, vocally, and I really want to record it, half of it solo and half with my band.”
What hobbies do you have?
Well, I work out almost every day. I belong to a club up here, and I’m 80 years old right now, so it’s what keeps my motor running. And I run my own business, so I also have an office downtown. I have six children, five grandchildren and one of them’s about to make a great grandfather out of me. So I spend a lot of time thinking about them. We call it the extended family. My third wife Kim and I preside over all of this, and it’s always a lot of fun.
Around the holidays, do they ask grandpa to sing the classics, like “Sundown,” “Carefree Highway”?
Grandpa don’t take no holidays! My holiday is onstage; I love getting up in front of the crowd, I really do. I love playing music. And I will do it forever if I can. But my daily routine really helps. And it’s the opposite of what it used to be. I used to stay up all night and sleep through the day. Now I get up early. I gave up alcohol in 1982, stopped smoking cigarettes five months ago. I’ll do anything to help me do the workout I do, and when I’m onstage, I feel strong.
Any songs that have grown, changed meaning for you over the years?
I’ve got all the best ones in a state of rotation. I keep rotating them around, but you can’t lose the standards. There are several standards, and they get done every night. And the rest of it is like a little universe of its own.
How was it receiving that doctorate?
Those things are great fun. You get the robe and everything. I’ve even played the guitar with that robe on. It was a total honor for me.
IF YOU GO
Where: City National Civic, 135 W. San Carlos St., San Jose
When: 8 p.m. March 5
Tickets: $45 to $75
Note: Lightfoot also appears at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 6 at Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa.