… that in the middle of a 1972 show in Toronto, Gordon Lightfoot was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy by his doctor who happened to be in the audience?
—Writing Gordon Lightfoot: The Man, the Music, and the World in 1972 by Dave Bidini
Excerpt from Writing Gordon Lightfoot:
A few months later, something else happened that may or may not have been caused by what happened before. On the first evening of a five-night run at Toronto’s Massey Hall, Lightfoot felt numbness consume the left side of his face. After finishing the first set, he saw his doctor, who happened to be in the crowd. The doctor told him that he had Bell’s palsy, a paralysis of the facial nerve that limits one’s ability to control muscles in the face. Bell’s palsy is commonly caused by trauma and emotional disorder, and while Lightfoot could rage and get wild and let everything fall loose with the best of them, he was also a bottled-up soul. “Gord wasn’t the easiest person to know,” remembers Mair, “which is why those nights on stage were so important to him. He lived for performing. It was his air, his food, his reason for living.” Proof of this can be found in the fact that despite having to sing out of one side of his face, Lightfoot honoured his Massey Hall commitment, playing the remaining five nights. After each show, he returned to the apartment that he shared with Cathy Evelyn Smith. “Being famous isn’t easy, not for anyone, even though it might look like it from the outside,” said Mair. “Cathy was beautiful and smart, but she was a tramp. During that time, she was all that Gord had. And for a few years, they were virtually inseparable. Whether this was good or bad for him depends on your perspective.” In 1978, Mair told a Canadian magazine that “Gordon is one of your bigger male chauvinists and a leading exponent of the double standard. He will not do anything for nothing, for anyone.” Hearing these words repeated to him years later, Mair regrets having made these remarks in public, although, he says, “it doesn’t mean that they were untrue.”