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by Jane Stevenson
Toronto Sun
January 27, 2007

Clayton-Thomas thrilled and honoured to be inducted alongside Joni Mitchell

David Clayton-Thomas may be opening the Canadian Songwriters Hall Of Fame gala tomorrow night with his own inducted song, the Blood, Sweat And Tears' classic Spinning Wheel, but his mind will be on another fellow inductee, Joni Mitchell.

"I'm doubly honoured because my song is actually being inducted alongside of five Joni Mitchell songs," said the British-born, Canadian raised Clayton-Thomas, 65. "And I am a long-time Joni Mitchell fan. I think I somewhat idolize her as a writer."

More than that though, Clayton-Thomas and Mitchell were part of the same '60s music scene in Toronto's Yorkville neighborhood.

"I adored her," he said. "I had an enormous crush on her. She played a little folk club on Yorkville called The River Boat. I played around the corner at a club called The Devil's Den. And so I used to be able to go out the back door of The Devil's Den, between my sets, jump over the fence, and sneak in the kitchen door of The River Boat and watch Joni Mitchell from the back. But she never paid me no mind. She was this ethereal, flaxen-haired, goddess from the West Coast and I was a greasy-haired, leather-jacketed, rock-'n'-roll punk from Toronto with a real loud rock-'n'-roll band, which played two doors away and still, I'm sure, disturbed some of her shows."

Mitchell, the folk icon who has explored everything from jazz to world music in her 40-year-plus varied career, is herself being inducted as a modern-era songwriter while her songs, Big Yellow Taxi, Both Sides Now, Help Me, Woodstock, and You Turn Me On, I'm A Radio, are among 25 tunes entering the CSHF this year.

Given her respected stature, Mitchell -- who will be present tomorrow night -- has drawn the likes of singer-songwriter James Taylor (also a former love from the '70s), funk singer Chaka Khan and jazz innovator Herbie Hancock to perform her songs at the gala being held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

But it's Canadian sopranao Measha Brueggergosman who will dramatically close the evening with Mitchell's Both Sides Now, accompanied by an orchestra.

Also on board earlier in the gala will be Canadian crooner Michael Buble to sing the inducted song, How About You?, written by Ralph Freed and Burton Lane.

"I think this has turned into a very special event," Clayton-Thomas said. "I think for many years people have known that Canada turns out more than its share of great songwriters. We've got a great tradition of songwriting. Given our population, probably an extraordinary amount of writers."

Folk legend Sylvia Fricker, formerly Tyson, is also excited about her gospel-influenced classic, You Were On My Mind, being inducted.

"I'm in some very good company," said Fricker, 67, who was among the first artists, with her then-husband Ian Tyson, to record Mitchell's tunes.

"I think this is going to be an amazing night. I have to say that this event has become kind of the hot ticket as far awards go. This one pleases me because it's basically from my peers. I've been a songwriter for all of my adult life and being honoured by other songwriters is really important to me."

Amazingly, You Were On My Mind, was the first song Fricker ever wrote of the over 200 tunes she has published.

At the time, Ian Tyson had already written the folk classic, Four Strong Winds, and the duo was hanging out with the likes of Bob Dylan and Philochs.

"I wrote it in New York in about 1962 and Ian and I were staying in a real flea-bag hotel, which was all we could afford," Fricker said. "But it was right at Washington Square in Greenwich Village and I wrote the song in the bathtub. And people always assume I was having a bath, which I wasn't. It was an empty bathtub, but it was the only place in our so-called suite that the cockroaches wouldn't go."

Tomorrow night, Blue Rodeo frontman Jim Cuddy will be joined by Oh Susanna in performing You Were On My Mind, and Fricker couldn't be more thrilled.

 

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