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Nicholas Jennings

Nicholas Jennings

Nicholas Jennings is one of Canada’s most respected music journalists. He was the music critic and feature writer for Maclean's magazine from 1980 to 2000. In addition to Maclean's, he has written for Saturday Night, Billboard, Words & Music, TV Guide, Inside Entertainment and Hello! Magazines. For newspapers, he has written on music for The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail and, from 1992 to 1998, contributed the "Global Groove" column to Toronto’s eyeweekly. Nicholas is also the author of Before the Gold Rush: Flashbacks to the Dawn of the Canadian Sound (Penguin), a critically acclaimed history of the Yorkville era of Canadian music in the 1960s, and Fifty Years of Music: The Story of EMI Music Canada (Macmillan).

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61 articles

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The Band, The Beatles, Jimmy Cliff, Bob Dylan, Dexter Gordon, Diana Krall, Led Zeppelin, Elvis Presley, The Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, Spinal Tap, Talking Heads, The Who: 25 Essential Music DVDs

Guide by Nicholas Jennings, Inside Entertainment, September 2004

1. The Last Waltz THE BAND'S elegant swansong is the ultimate rock concert movie. Director Martin Scorsese's discreet camerawork and superb sound captures inspired performances from ...

The Band, Janis Joplin: Richard Bell: Dazzling keyboard artist found a place in rock 'n' roll history

Obituary by Nicholas Jennings, Globe and Mail, The, 23 June 2007

AMONG BLUES-ROCK soloists and accompanists, he had few equals. An exceptional pianist, organist and accordion player, Richard Bell left his mark on more than 400 ...

Barenaked Ladies on Top

Profile and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Maclean's, 25 September 2000

IT WAS LIKE an IQ test question asking which was the apple among the oranges. ...

Barenaked Ladies: Barenaked in America

Report and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Maclean's, 20 July 1998

THE LADIES' LUCK has changed. While Canada's Barenaked Ladies have fizzled at home in the past few years, their career has exploded south of the ...

Beyoncé: The Solid Gold, Super Fly Destiny of Beyoncé

Profile and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Inside Entertainment, February 2004

SHE'S YOUNG, GIFTED and black. She's also devout, hard-working and extremely fly. ...

Blood Sweat & Tears, Denny Doherty, John Kay, The Lovin' Spoonful, The Mamas and The Papas, Steppenwolf, Domenic Troiano, Zal Yanovsky: Blasts from the Past: Five veteran Canadian rockers recall their glory days

Report and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Maclean's, 11 March 1996

CANADIAN MUSIC passes a milestone this year as the Juno Awards turn 25. To celebrate the occasion, this year's event (CBC TV, Sunday, March 10) ...

Blue Rodeo: Going Indie on the internet

Report and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Maclean's, 7 May 2001

IMAGINE YOU'RE in a rock band that is wildly successful at home in Canada, but only mildly so in the United States. Canadian sales of ...

Michael Brook, Brian Eno, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Loop Guru: Best of All Possible Musics: Michael Brook and Loop Guru mess with Eno

Report and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Eye Weekly, 26 July 1996

IN THE WORLD of ambient music, Brian Eno is god, the all-knowing, all-powerful genius of the recording studio. So omnipotent is Eno that his disciples ...

Dennis Brown: Reggae crooner highly respected

Report and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Toronto Star, 19 February 1992

REGGAE ARTISTS seem to have a knack for taking well-known pop songs, transforming them with reggae's distinctive, loping rhythm – what Bob Marley called "the ...

Michael Bublé: A Charmed Life

Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Inside Entertainment, February 2005

VANCOUVER CROONER Michael Bublé is leading a charmed life. Since launching his singing career, raised on his grandfather's love of the sounds of the Mills ...

Jane Bunnett: Our Gal in Havana

Profile and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Maclean's, 26 June 2000

SHE'S BEEN CALLED "Havana Jane", and Canada's Jane Bunnett has certainly earned the title. The celebrated jazz flautist and soprano saxophonist has been a familiar ...

Neko Case: The Singer and the Song

Profile and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Words & Music, Summer 2006

FOR YEARS, Neko Case has been hailed as a siren, a honky-tonk angel with a stunning contralto described variously as "eerie," "luscious," "transcendent" and "the ...

Tracy Chapman, Sarah McLachlan, Kinnie Starr, Suzanne Vega: Songs of the Sirens: Lilith Fair

Report by Nicholas Jennings, Maclean's, 28 July 1997

THEY READ tarot cards on the grass in the afternoon sun and danced under the moon to the sounds of Tracy Chapman. And before they ...

Johnny Clegg, Juluka, Savuka: Johnny Clegg: Scatterlings of Africa Regroup

Report and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Toronto Star, 18 July 1996

HIS TOUR BUS has broken down. His cellular phone is running low on batteries. But Johnny Clegg has faced far greater obstacles in his career. ...

Bruce Cockburn: Rumours of Glory

Sleevenotes by Nicholas Jennings, True North Records, November 2014

IN HIS ILLUMINATING memoir, also called Rumours of Glory, Bruce Cockburn writes: "My songs are influenced by what I read, where I travel and what ...

Coldplay: Englishmen in New York

Report and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Inside Entertainment, April 2005

CHRIS MARTIN seems perfectly at home in the Big Apple. Although quintessentially English, the Coldplay frontman talks at New York speed, his mouth racing to ...

Ry Cooder: Some Cuban Sizzle: Ry Cooder turns up the musical heat in Havana

Report and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Maclean's, 13 October 1997

RY COODER'S RESUMÉ is one of the most impressive in popular music. He has lent his guitar skills to recordings by the Rolling Stones, Van ...

Elvis Costello, Allen Toussaint: Interview: Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint

Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Inside Entertainment, May 2006

ELVIS COSTELLO is rock's renaissance man. Along with writing and recording his own songs — some of the wittiest and most acerbic in the pop ...

Cowboy Junkies take the indie route

Report and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Maclean's, 7 May 2001

IT'S NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE to imagine Margo Timmins as a bad-tempered diva. The angel-voiced singer of Canada's Cowboy Junkies has always been a point of calm ...

Crash Test Dummies: Brad Roberts: Crash Test Dude

Report and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Inside Entertainment, December 2002

BRAD ROBERTS, the Crash Test dude, is no dummy. Although he's a Grinch who hates Christmas, can't stomach turkey and is practically Scrooge-like in his ...

Bobby Curtola, The Moffatts, Justin Timberlake: Teen Idols and the fast track to fame

Report and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Inside Entertainment, 2003

"Some people call me a teenage idol/Some people say they envy me/I guess they got no way of knowing/How lonesome I can be" (Ricky Nelson, ...

Manu Dibango: Dibango the Giant

Report and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Eye Weekly, 28 July 1994

GLOBAL MUSIC often works best on the dance floor where, free from ghetto-izing labels and strict radio formats, it can cross over and capture the ...

Gordon Downie: Gord goes it alone: The Tragically Hip's Gord Downie

Profile and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Maclean's, 26 March 2001

GORDON DOWNIE inhabits an enviable place in Canadian culture. At concerts, thousands of fans chant his lyrics as if they were mantras. They hang on ...

Feist: Fantastic Feist

Profile and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Words & Music, Summer 2007

TORONTO'S MUSIC Gallery is housed in St. George the Martyr Church, on the edge of a park and a stone's throw from Queen Street West. ...

Aretha Franklin: The world says a little prayer for the Queen of Soul

Obituary by Nicholas Jennings, Hello!, 3 September 2018

SHE HAD A VOICE that perfectly blended the sacred and the secular, one that could scale gospel highs and move effortlessly from jazz and blues ...

Franz Ferdinand: Reigning rock star geeks

Profile and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Inside Entertainment, December 2005

IT LOOKS LIKE Andy Warhol's fabled Factory in New York. Walls, windows, doors and furniture are all encased in tin foil. Silver balloons add a ...

The Guess Who: Guess Who's Reborn?

Retrospective and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Maclean's, 29 May 2000

ON AN EARLY May afternoon, on the eastern outskirts of Winnipeg, a spring ritual is under way. Like bears emerging from hibernation, some grey-haired men ...

Ronnie Hawkins: Rock of Ages

Profile and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Maclean's, 15 May 1995

THE BEER WAS flowing freely as waitresses served platters of breaded shrimp, gourmet pizza and chicken wings. But it was not the regular hockey crowd ...

Dan Hill: Coming Full Circle

Profile and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Words & Music, Spring 2010

HE'S ONE OF Canada's most successful songwriters, an artist whose songs have topped the country and pop music charts around the world. As a composer, ...

Alicia Keys: Alicia in Wonderland

Profile and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Inside Entertainment, Summer 2002

SHE HAS THE hooks and the looks – and depth and diversity too. Barely out of her teens, Alicia Keys may be the most sophisticated ...

Diana Krall: Sweet Seduction

Profile and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Maclean's, 13 September 1999

IT'S MID-MORNING in a quiet hotel restaurant and Diana Krall is having a love affair with an artichoke. ...

Fela Kuti: Africa's Cult Musician: Fela Anikulapo Kuti

Report by Nicholas Jennings, Maclean's, 13 October 1986

WHEN ONE OF Africa's most celebrated musicians receives visitors at his home in the Nigerian capital of Lagos, he lounges in little more than a ...

Daniel Lanois' shining pedal steel sound

Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Inside Entertainment, 2003

"I HAVE WANDERED far and wide," Daniel Lanois sings on the title track to his latest album, "all the way from Paris to Mexico". ...

John Legend: Mr. Legend Comes to Town

Profile and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Inside Entertainment, September 2006

IT'S A MUGGY day and John Legend is trying his best to stay cool. The gifted American soul singer is in a Toronto Baptist church ...

Annie Lennox: The First Lady

Report and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Inside Entertainment, October 2007

WHEN I FIRST met her, she spoke in a whisper, protecting the gold-plated vocal cords that had made Eurythmics one of the top musical acts ...

Gordon Lightfoot on Songwriting

Retrospective and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Words & Music, Winter 2003

ON AN UNSEASONABLY warm Thanksgiving, Gordon Lightfoot is in an uncharacteristically reflective mood, sipping coffee and looking back on a career that has produced every ...

Lighthouse, The Paupers: Skip Prokop: Lighthouse co-founder made rock history

Obituary by Nicholas Jennings, Globe and Mail, The, 8 September 2017

SKIP PROKOP was one of Canada's first major rock stars, a world-class drummer and talented songwriter who co-founded the groundbreaking jazz-rock band Lighthouse, which earned ...

Taj Mahal's ancestral music

Retrospective and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Eye Weekly, 18 July 1994

TAJ MAHAL was deep into the pan-African diaspora long before anyone dreamed up the term "world music." Blues, ragtime, calypso, reggae, Mandinka soul from West ...

Paul McCartney: Paul Gets Back

Report and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Maclean's, 2 October 1989

ENGLAND WAS basking in an unseasonably warm and bright afternoon one day last week. Paul McCartney, however, was spending it enveloped by darkness and fog, ...

Kate & Anna McGarrigle: Kate McGarrigle: Acclaimed musician left her mark

Obituary by Nicholas Jennings, Globe and Mail, The, 20 January 2010

FOLK SINGER KATE McGarrigle left a deep musical legacy both in recordings with her older sister Anna McGarrigle and in her two children, singer-songwriters Rufus ...

Sarah McLachlan: Front and Centre Stage

Profile and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Maclean's, 28 July 1995

SARAH MCLACHLAN was lounging in her air-conditioned trailer, exhausted but exhilarated after a day spent fielding media questions and a night spent singing, strumming and ...

Joni Mitchell: Lady of the Canyon

Report and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Maclean's, 31 October 1994

FOR JONI MITCHELL, fame has been a fickle lover. In the 1970s, it lavished her with sold-out tours and numerous magazine covers. She was the ...

Alanis Morissette: Adventures of Alanis in Wonderland

Profile by Nicholas Jennings, Maclean's, 1 February 1995

SHE IS THE newest cover girl for "alternative" rock, a populist answer to Courtney Love. Fans and critics throughout North America have embraced Ottawa native ...

Oasis: Interview: Liam Gallagher and Oasis

Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Inside Entertainment, 2006

OASIS IS EITHER the best, balls-to-the-wall rock 'n' roll band of the last decade or the worst case in recent memory of media notoriety trumping ...

Owen Pallett Has Something to Prove

Profile and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Words & Music, Summer 2014

HIS WORK HAS won Grammys, JUNOs and an Emmy, and he's been nominated for an Oscar. He's an acclaimed solo artist, frequent collaborator with Arcade ...

Oscar Peterson: A Living, Swinging Legend: Oscar Peterson

Profile and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Maclean's, 13 September 1999

OSCAR PETERSON peers up through the glass ceiling of his sunroom and apologizes for the faint noise coming from a distant jet passing overhead. "We're ...

John Prine: Fair and Square

Review by Nicholas Jennings, Inside Entertainment, 2005

CHICAGO IS THE cradle of modern blues, the place where Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf urbanized and electrified the music of the Mississippi Delta. But, ...

Queen's We Will Rock You

Report and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Inside Entertainment, 2007

WHAT A DIFFERENCE a few decades make. When Queen first came to prominence in the early 1970s, the British band was panned for its bombastic ...

Leon Redbone: The Cult of Redbone

Report and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Maclean's, 5 November 2001

FOR MORE THAN 25 years, Leon Redbone has been conjuring up the past with his Roaring Twenties show tunes and turn-of-the-century minstrel ditties. Wearing his ...

Roaring Lion: At 87, he's still king of Calypso

Retrospective and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Toronto Star, 18 May 1995

HE'S THE GRAND old man of calypso, the historian and upholder of Trinidad's legendary musical tradition. He's also a living legend himself, the gentleman with ...

Rush: Rock'n'Roll Royalty

Retrospective and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Maclean's, 30 September 1991

GEDDY LEE visibly tenses up when he talks about the period when fans drove him and his family out of their east-end Toronto home. ...

Gil Scott-Heron: Jazz poet shuns rap spotlight

Report and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Toronto Star, 28 January 1993

HE HAS BEEN called the godfather of rap, but Gil Scott-Heron steadfastly refuses to bask in any hip hop glory. ...

Ron Sexsmith, Rufus Wainwright: The New Romantics: Ron Sexsmith and Rufus Wainwright

Profile and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Maclean's, June 2001

THEY ARE THE sensitive boys of Canadian pop. Both are acclaimed singer-songwriters, and both are unabashedly emotional. One is gay, with an impeccable musical pedigree, ...

Jane Siberry: Songs in a Brave New Key

Report and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Maclean's, 9 August 1993

MOST PERFORMERS would call getting booed during a concert their worst nightmare. Not Jane Siberry. Although she suffered that fate last year, at the height ...

Sloan: "Totally awesome"

Profile and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Maclean's, 23 November 1998

A FEW DAYS on the concert circuit with the Canadian band Sloan defy just about all the usual rock 'n' roll expectations. ...

The Tragically Hip: From the Hip: The Tragically Hip

Profile and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Maclean's, 11 December 2000

WELL AFTER midnight, on a cold stretch of highway somewhere in British Columbia's Cascade Mountains, a party is in progress. It's mid-November, and members of ...

Shania Twain: Country Princess

Profile and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Maclean's, 28 August 1995

IT IS THE AUGUST holiday weekend, but there is no rest for Shania Twain. New country music's hottest new sensation is busy paying her dues ...

Ian Tyson: Cowboy troubadour: Ian Tyson is riding high again

Profile and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Maclean's, 13 February 1989

THE AUDITORIUM was a sea of cowboy hats in a variety of styles – High Sierra, Ridgetop and Cattleman. The ranchers, cowhands and wives were ...

The Ugly Ducklings: The Yorkville Scene

Book Excerpt by Nicholas Jennings, 'Before the Gold Rush' (Penguin), 2 June 2010

ON A SPRING night in 1965, a warm breeze blew along Toronto's Yorkville Avenue, carrying with it a strange mixture of scents: rich coffee, pungent ...

Hawksley Workman: Hawksley's Moxie

Profile and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Maclean's, 21 April 2001

IS HAWKSLEY WORKMAN too good to be true? At 26, the Canadian singer-songwriter has already drawn comparisons to figures like David Bowie and Tom Waits ...

List of genre pieces

Blasts to the Past: Canada's labels dig through back catalog and discover gold

Report and Interview by Nicholas Jennings, Billboard, 31 March 2001

THERE'S GOLD in them there vaults. Like miners digging for precious nuggets, Canadian record companies have been sifting through their back catalogs to find long-lost ...

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