ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, APRIL 3, 2003
Tom Cochrane had his biggest hit, “Life Is a Highway”, two years after splitting up with long-time guitarist Kenny Greer and abandoning the Red Rider name. But fans who’ve followed the Ontario singer-songwriter’s storied career know that his time with Red Rider, from 1979 to ’89, spawned some terrific material. So they’ll be pleased to see that he’s reunited with lap-steel specialist Greer for a tour that visits the Commodore Ballroom on Wednesday (April 9) and the Vogue Theatre next Thursday (April 10). And there’s another trusty member from the first Red Rider days onboard, too.
“Jonesy’s back on bass,” enthuses Cochrane from his home outside of Toronto. “How ’bout that? I haven’t been with Jeff Jones since ’85. And [keyboardist-producer] John Webster is out with us, too. I don’t know if I’ll be able to get rid of him—he just wants to play live now; man, he’s tired of the studio. And we’ve got Vancouver’s own Randall Stoll on drums. He’s the best drummer I’ve ever worked with, aside from Matty [Frenette]. Matty was possibly the best live drummer I’ve ever played with, but I put Randall right up there with him.”
Along with well-loved Red Rider tunes like “White Hot” and “Lunatic Fringe”, there’s a good chance the band will deliver the odd new song, perhaps “Just Like Ali”, a bluesy number that features Greer’s shimmering steel- and slide-guitar work. It was included on the recent three-disc compilation, Trapeze, and dedicated to both boxer Muhammad Ali and Cochrane’s father, Tuck, who passed away last November after battling Parkinson’s disease.
“It’s the classic situation of him being diagnosed shortly after he retired,” notes Cochrane. “When my dad got sick it got worse and worse, and then he had deliriums, so basically he had dementia with his Parkinson’s. Unfortunately it got to a point we had to put him into a home, and that was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life; that really preyed on me for seven years. But I remember shortly after we put him in, he said, ‘Toad’—Toad was my nickname—he said, ‘Toad, I’m gonna fight this thing, just like Ali.’”
It’s heartfelt, inspirational tunes like “Ali” that earned Cochrane a spot in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, which he’ll be inducted into during the Juno Awards on Sunday (April 6). To make the occasion extra special, his idol Robbie Robertson will be making the presentation. “To me it’s just a complete mind-blowing honour, beyond description,” he raves. “The irony there is that his songs—I mean, I lived and breathed that music for a couple of years in high school, even dressed like the Band. I remember watching them at Massey Hall, second balcony, 17 years of age, and halfway through ‘The Weight’ I said, ‘That’s what I’m gonna do for a living.’ So I’ll tell ya, that’s a big honour for me, to be inducted by Robbie Robertson.”