by | May 2, 2023 | Films


“If You Could Read My Mind”

by Martha Kehoe & Joan Tosoni
Documentary, 90 minutes with post-film discussion.

ENCORE: Tuesday July 11, 7pm

Neil Harrell will return to lead post-film discussion.

One Night Only
Thursday, May 25
7 pm, Garfield Theatre
Adults $12 advance, $16 door
Students $8 advance, $12 door

May marks the beginning of our music documentary series. Our goal is to select high-quality biographies about artists who have had major impact upon American music and culture.  Stay tuned for coming announcements.

Remembering Gordon Lightfoot

Click to enlarge poster

With the screening of If You Could Read My Mind  we  celebrate the life and music of a talented and prolific artist, who passed away on May 1, 2023.

Back in the day, thousands of people fell in love with Lightfoot’s musical storytelling. It is an honor to share his history, music and concert performances with you in If You Could Read My Mind. 

Watching the film, we see why Gordon Lightfoot is considered the greatest singer-songwriter in Canadian history. The documentary is a trifecta of excellence –  timeless, touching music; Gordon’s personal story of perseverance, love, jealousy and regret; combined with a snapshot of Canadian culture gaining prominence thanks largely to Gordon’s stature as resident troubadour.

His words are sensitive poetry, his ballads tell stories that capture your heart. His silky baritone exudes emotion. His musicianship and arrangements are exquisite. His work ethic is legendary.

The documentary’s flow is not strictly linear but arranged around his most important songs and life events. It combines a look back over time with the present-tense sensibility of a man in the late stages of life.


Documentary, directors Martha Kehoe and Joan Tosoni, 2020, Canada/USA. TRT 90 min, Rated G.

☀ THE GARFIELD THEATRE, 719 Race St., Cincinnati, OH 45202.
Google MapGarfield Parking Options

ENCORE: Tuesday, July 11, 7:00 pm
Thursday, May 25, 7:00 pm

Adult Tickets are $12 in advance, $16 at the door.
Student Tickets are $8 in advance, $12 at the door.
Tickets available online via the Tix Button (top of this webpage), and by phone at (859) 957-3456.

The Garfield is ADA accessible. ADA details and Covid-19 information can be found on the CWC Policies Page.

Outside food and beverage is not permitted in the theatre.
Purchase of a ticket confirms acceptance by the purchaser that the presenter/host and their staff will not be liable for any loss, damage, action, claim, cost or expenses which may arise in the consequence of attendance at this event.
Purchaser declares that they will not attend unless in good health on the day of the event. Further, purchaser understands it is impossible to guarantee that they will not be exposed to Covid-19 and will attend at their own risk. No refunds, all sales are final.


    If You Could Read My Mind skillfully covers the key elements of an arts documentary:

    1. It celebrates the art form – his writing, composition and music, through a generous array of Lightfoot performances, giving us the best of his repertoire when he was at the top of his game. The film’s best moments are experienced by letting the music speak for itself — something his fans and music lovers in general will appreciate. We also see his original composition sheets, meticulously notated, evidence of his creativity and work ethic.

    Among the 30 songs in the film: If You Could Read My Mind, The Canadian Railroad Trilogy, Sundown, For Lovin’ Me, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, Early Morning Rain, Song for a Winter’s Night, Pussy Willows Cat-Tails, and The Circle is Small.

    2. It connects us with the artist, telling us things we don’t know, in conversation with Lightfoot himself.  We learn about the things that matter to him, about his mistakes and regrets in life – candor rarely seen in biopics. He discusses his heavy drinking and recovery, the aneurysm and subsequent coma that almost ended life, as well as his sense that he’s mastering the process of aging.

    And there are his early days spent writing hits for other stars, the folk club scene in Canada, New York and California, hangin’ with Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Jerry Jeff Walker, et. al. And of course, the touring that dominated his life.

    3. Yes, there are talking heads – peers and luminaries weighing in on Lightfoot’s significance. Less is better in this category but worthwhile here as concise, relevant commentary mixed with abundant music adds value to our viewing experience.

    A prolific songwriter, Gordon Lightfoot was a major force in the development of Canada’s folk music scene in the 1960s and 1970s. His love of performing and touring carried him through six decades in the music business.

    Lightfoot’s poetic lyrics influenced his highly personal compositions and many artists, including Peter, Paul, and Mary … Bob Dylan … Anne Murray … Johnny Cash … Elvis Presley … Sarah McLachlan … Marty Robbins … Herb Alpert … Glen Campbell … Don McLean … Liza Minnelli … Olivia Newton-John … Barbra Streisand and Andy Williams have recorded songs by Lightfoot, including “Early Morning Rain,” “For Lovin’ Me,” and “Ribbons of Darkness.”  Amazingly, over 100 artists have covered “If You Could Read My Mind.”

    Lightfoot History & Discography
    An extensive biography can be found at Wikipedia, with breakouts by childhood, career-by-decade, personal life, etc.

    In 1960, he became a member of the vocal group Swinging Eight, who frequently performed on the TV show “Country Hoedown.” In addition, he and Terry Whalen were briefly a pair known as the Two Tones.

    After that breakthrough, he recorded three additional albums in the studio for United Artists, beginning with 1966’s Lightfoot!

    In 1976, he released the album Summertime Dream, which featured the hit single “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” To fit his vocal range, Lightfoot would capo his guitar on the second fret, forcing himself to become inventive with the songs he could create in that key. He was bemused by the fact that the vast majority of his bandmates and studio session musicians were content to adapt to this. In 2008, he said to American Songwriter, “It was unthinkable for me to enter a recording studio and instruct a guitarist to prepare to play in either the key of F# or the key of B. I was embarrassed about that. I remember asking Vassar Clements to tune his fiddle down a half-tone so I could perform an E flat song. The fact that he just did it is impressive. He merely turned down the volume, and off we went.”

    Lightfoot’s productivity slowed in the ’80s and in 1986, he was honored with a spot in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. Later, the releases of Waiting for You (1993) and A Painter Passing (1998) helped revive his career. After that, in 2012, he released an album of live performances titled All Live recorded in Toronto’s Massey Hall, where he had been performing as a headliner on an annual basis since the late ’60s.

    Lightfoot fell into a coma for a total of six weeks in 2002 after suffering an abdominal aortic aneurysm.  The highest civilian honor bestowed by Canada, the Companion of the Order of Canada, was awarded to him in 2003. In 2004, once he had recovered, he released the studio album Harmony. In 2020, he released his final album, titled Solo.


    Neil Harrell
    Neil Harrell and his harp guitar

    For the last thirty years, Neil Harrrell has been a luthier, an artisan who designs, makes and repairs stringed instruments – in his case principally guitars, mandolins and banjos. He is also a singer/songwriter and guitar player.

    Over the last two decades Neil has been a leader of the Queen City Balladeers, an all-volunteer organization known for promoting the traditions of roots music — what these days is known as Americana music — and folk performance in Cincinnati.

    The QCB has gained prominence for hosting the Leo Coffeehouse, now known as the Leo Listening Room.  In short, the QCB and Leo is a musical oasis (and civic treasure) – a place to enjoy live music in a room filled with attentive listeners.  Learn more about the Queen City Balladeers.

    Tim Swallow

    Timothy SwallowTim operates The Garfield Theatre and is a founder and president of Cincinnati World Cinema, with a 22-year history of film programming and presentation, including world premieres and festivals. Prior to CWC, he spent two decades in arts marketing and live events production, focusing on music, theatre and the arts.


    Tim & Gord backstage, 2012On a personal note, a previous career producing live events included seven Lightfoot concert dates over the years at Cincinnati Music Hall, the U.C. Armory Field House, Columbus Mershon Auditorium and Dayton Hara Arena.

    Working with Gord was always a privilege and a pleasure, not just for his music, but for his genuine rapport with the audience and his focus on giving them his very best.  His band mates were the same – loyal professionals with decades by his side.

    Band members, management and crew were laid back and focused on performance, not ego – tour manager Barry Harvey, road manager and sound engineer Richard Harrison, Terry Clements on lead, Rick Haynes on bass, Pee Wee Charles on pedal steel, Barry Keane on drums, and joining in 1981, Mike Heffernan on keys.


    Biographer Nicholas Jennings on his legacy:
    “His name is synonymous with timeless songs about trains and shipwrecks, rivers and highways, lovers and loneliness. His music defined the folk-pop sound of the 1960s and 1970s.”

    Capturing the majesty of Canada:
    “There was a time in this fair land when the railroad did not run.
    “When the wild majestic mountains stood alone against the sun.
    “Long before the white man, and long before the wheel.
    “When the green dark forest was too silent to be real.”
    — from The Canadian Railroad Trilogy 

    Sharing personal heartbreak:
    “If you read between the lines you’ll know that I’m just trying to understand, the feelings that we lack.
    “I never thought I could feel this way and I’ve got to say that I just don’t get it.
    “I don’t know where we went wrong but the feeling’s gone and I just can’t get it back.”
    — from If You Could Read My Mind

    “This essential film reveals the secrets behind Lightfoot’s sustained success.”
    — Analysis by Forbes Magazine

    “Gordon Lightfoot on Meeting Miles Davis and Canadian Canoe Trips”
    — 20 Questions by Exclaim Magazine


    CLICK TO ENLARGEIt couldn’t be easier – across the street from the Garfield Theatre, you’ll find the Butcher & Barrel, home of delicious shareables, salads, entrees, sides and desserts, plus excellent wine, craft beer and mixed drinks.

    For CWC patrons, the Butcher and Barrel offers a 15% discount on your order, excluding alcohol; menu is on the website. Reservations are strongly recommended, especially if you are dining between a CWC double feature. You should present your online confirmation or ticket from the event, and let your server know if there are time constraints. The discount is valid only for the date of ticket.

    HOURS: MON-TUE, closed; WED-THS, 4-10 pm; FRI-SAT, 4-12 am; SUN, 4-10 pm. The kitchen closes one hour before the restaurant, every night. Hours and menu subject to change – check the website before booking.
    RESERVATIONS REQUESTED: 513-954-8974 or


    “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” – BBC.  For the Centennial Celebration, Lightfoot was commissioned to create and perform the song that embodies Canadian spirit.
    Breaking down “If You Could Read My Mind.”   Musicians, composers, lyricists, arrangers – check out what makes this one of the best songs ever written.

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