Healing Wishes To Daniel Lanois
I’ve been away from the blog for about two weeks now, funny how a disorienting trip can derail your little routine enough that it just seems impossible to remember how you used to tie your shoes, let alone open a file and fill it with blather about music. But this blog isn’t about me…
This morning I heard, (on Facebook, of course!) that the great musician, producer and my fellow Canadian countryman, Daniel Lanois had been badly hurt in motorcycle crash near the Silverlake area of Los Angeles over the weekend, sustaining multiple injuries which will take months to heal and force him to postpone a planned summer tour with Black Dub, the group he recently assembled with drummer Brian Blade (Wayne Shorter, Joshua Redman) bass player Daryl Johnson (Neville Brothers, Emmylou Harris) and vocalist Trixie Whitley.
According to reporting by Lynn Saxberg and Bernard Perusse, originating in The Ottawa Citizen and the Montreal Gazette, at press time Tuesday, Lanois was still in the intensive-care unit of an unidentified Los Angeles hospital and a spokesman for Jive Records (the label releasing the Black Dub collective’s music) said Lanois “expects to be released soon but will spend the next two months recovering.” They also say reveal that Lanois had recently been producing an upcoming album for another of my celebrated countrymen, Neil Young, and had completed an autobiographical book, Soul Mining.
The story also quotes a two-year old interview with The Ottawa Citizen where Lanois claimed to not own a car, but rather waxed poetic about his BMW and Harley motorcycles.
“We of the iron horse, we don’t mix up too many things together,” Lanois told The Citizen. “We concentrate on what we’re doing. We also exercise that part of our brain that embraces telepathy so we anticipate what people are thinking around us, which is what I do for a living, with my music.”When he’s riding a motorcycle, Lanois said he is able to focus. “I’m not on the phone. I’m not multi-tasking. I’m not trying to do too much. I’m concentrating on one thing at a time, which is part of what makes music beautiful, and what makes life beautiful.”
A friend of mine described Lanois as a “national treasure”, and I agree. Not just as the producer or co-producer of influential albums by U2 (The Unforgettable Fire, The Joshua Tree, Achtung Baby, All That You Can’t Leave Behind and No Line On The Horizon), Bob Dylan (Oh Mercy, Time Out Of Mind) as well as Peter Gabriel, Robbie Robertson, Emmylou Harris (Wrecking Ball), The Neville Brothers, Luscious Jackson, Willie Nelson and tracks for Ron Sexsmith‘s debut plus wonderful albums collaborating as an artist with Brian Eno (such as Apollo: Atmospheres And Soundtracks, where I believe they invented “ambient country” music) and with brass innovator Jon Hassell.
Then there are his own solo albums, which are all filled with soul, passion and outstanding musicianship. Beginnning in 1989, with the must-hear set Acadie, you should also hear For the Beauty of Wynona (1993), Shine (2003), Rockets (2004), Belladonna (2005), and Here Is What Is, the soundtrack to his 2007 documentary of the same name. As folky as he is funky, Lanois the solo act may not be so well known outside of the cult of musicians (and Canadians) but his wealth of music deserves your ears. Now.
Born across the water from Canada’s capital city, in the Quebec town of Hull, young Lanois was raised in the steel town of Hamilton, Ontario where opened the legendary Grant Avenue Studio, with his brother Bob and produced, among other things, one of the more notorious Hammer town punk/new wave acts, Simply Saucer as recently discussed in Liz Worth’s book, Treat Me Like Dirt: An Oral History of Punk in Toronto and Beyond (Bongo Beat, 2009). He also got his start on albums by Martha and the Muffins (his sister Jocelyne played bass) and the children’s entertainer Raffi.
So I say, get well soon Daniel Lanois, like Dylan, you will rise from the motorcycle accident and make lots of music, but until you do, allow me to show my friends around a little tour of your work.
“The Messenger” (from For The Beauty Of Wynona)
“Jolie Louise” (from Acadie)
“The Maker” (from Acadie)
“Shine” (from Shine)
“Where Will I Be?” (from Here Is What Is).