Vish Khanna thinks fans of Dave Bidini's book on Gordon Lightfoot will love this book about 90s hip-hop
Vish Khanna is a journalist, radio personality and a lover of all things relating to music.
The Next Chapter columnist chats with Shelagh Rogers on two recent nonfiction reads about a classic American hip-hop group and a legendary Canadian folk music star — Go Ahead in the Rain by Hanif Abdurraqib and Writing Gordon Lightfoot by Dave Bidini.
Writing Gordon Lightfoot by Dave Bidini
"This came out about eight years before Abdurraquib's book. It has a similar conceit: Writing Gordon Lightfoot by Dave Bidini is a biography of sorts. Bidini is a musician himself and was in the band called the Rheostatics.
"He loves Gordon Lightfoot. He has this idea to write a biography about him. Gordon Lightfoot tells him he doesn't wish to participate. The rejection and hurt feeling that Bidini feels is palpable. The writing is unbiased and it's interesting; it's not anything close to a hagiography because he's been spurned a little bit by Lightfoot.
He loves Gordon Lightfoot. He has this idea to write a biography about him. Gordon Lightfoot tells him he doesn't wish to participate.- Vish Khanna
"Yet at the same time, it feels objective. It feels like Lightfoot is a human being that Bidini is trying to figure out. He's chosen a sociocultural marker in Canadian history — the week of July 16, 1972, when artists such as Lightfoot, Neil Young, Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell were present at the legendary Mariposa Festival at Toronto Island — as a way of kind of digging into the psyche of Lightfoot. Bidini is an entertaining and uncompromising writer.
"This book is very much a social history of Canada that is seen through the lens of this one artist during a particularly significant historical time in Canada."
"Go Ahead in the Rain is a tribute to A Tribe Called Quest, the music group that brought jazz to rap. It's written by poet and critic Hanif Abdurraquib. He traces their history. He writes about what their sound meant to him and to the culture at large.
"A Tribe Called Quest is a hip-hop group from New York. They are part of a more conscious rap movement called Native Tongues which emerged in the 1980s. The group was an Afrocentric and positive-minded group trying to keep things happy and progressive musically.
What resonated with me was Abdurraquib's articulation of his love for the group and how they were a part of his own life as a music fan.- Vish Khanna
"They emerged at a time when on the West Coast, more violent and divisive rap groups were emerging. But Tribe had a gentler more fun message; they were also very conscious of their roots, racial strife and what it means to be a young black man in the suburbs of America.
"What resonated with me was Abdurraquib's articulation of his love for the group and how they were a part of his own life as a music fan. It's a beautifully poetic book."
Vish Khanna's comments have been edited for length and clarity.