Each week, Essentials allows Canadian musicians to share the things that have helped get them through the pandemic, and why they still can’t live without them.
Liona Boyd has been recognized as First Lady of the Classical Guitar since releasing her debut album in 1974, while also becoming an unlikely superstar during an era when Canadian culture was bereft of glamour. Having had nearly all of the country’s honours bestowed upon her, from the Order of Canada to multiple Juno Awards, Boyd has very little else to prove as she splits her time between homes in Toronto and Palm Beach, Florida.
However, nothing has diminished her passion for playing guitar and pushing her talent in new directions. That’s never been more evident than on her latest release, a fun and clever interpretation of the early synthesizer novelty hit Popcorn. Not surprisingly, Boyd easily adapted the song’s jaunty melody to her style, and it’s emerged as a fully Latin-tinged piece with the aid of her collaborators Richard Fortin, Peter Bond, and Ron Korb.
She also got to have some fun while shooting the song’s video, playing on the beach in Florida and also donning an array of colourful outfits and five-inch spiked platform shoes. The video further contains many images that give a nod to her past, and displays glimpses of her father’s paintings, as well as some of her own.
It all demonstrates that Boyd isn’t about to slow down anytime soon on her quest to bring new listeners into the classical music realm. Popcorn (Remix) is available now to stream on Spotify, and purchase from Amazon Music. For more info, go to lionaboyd.com.
Essential Album: Julio Iglesias, Personalidad (Sony, 1992)
I have always been a romantic who loves poetic lyrics and soaring melodies, so I’d have to say this is my favourite CD to play while driving or doing housework. I can understand why Julio sold over 300 million albums, although nowadays I enjoy listening to all my favourites on Spotify. Personalidad includes the beautiful El Amor, Mexico’s beloved Cu-Cu-Ru-Cu-Cu Paloma, and A Flor de Piel. That sound so captivated me once when I was in Puerto Rico that I dashed out to buy Un Canto a Galica whose melody inspired my song I Want To Be Near To You, and Abrazame, that with my new English lyric became Make Love To Me. Every time I moved house on my own, I danced around the packing crates and played Julio’s albums at full blast. If I have Latin workmen in my house here in Florida, they really enjoy Julio as they remember their parents playing those songs. I also love the songs recorded by his son Enrique, and the rhythms of his monster hit Bailando which can be heard on a song that I am now working on.
Essential Book: Lawrence Durrell, The Alexandria Quartet (1957-1960)
My favourite books are often autobiographies of musicians or actors, but these are my favourite novels. I fell in love with them when I was seventeen, re-read them in my fifties, and recently listened to them as audiobooks. I remember being so disappointed when in Cairo, Egypt on a tour, when a last minute change in the itinerary meant a cancelled side trip to Alexandria. I can still recite from memory the first page of Justine, the first of the four books, and based the opening lines of my first autobiography on Durrell’s style and imagery. They are complex books with complex characters, and an attempt to make a film out of Justine in 1969 was a failure. Perhaps one day Netflix will try, but I don’t see how any film could do justice to Durrell’s work.
Essential TV: The Nature Of Things (CBC) / Nova (PBS)
I am fascinated by nature, biology, animals and space exploration, and I love everything on TV and radio related to that. When in Canada I often tune into CBC’s Quirks and Quarks, and I always watch anything by one of my heroes, David Suzuki. For years I’ve watched The Nature of Things, and when I’m in the U.S. I always try to catch Nova. They have produced so many magnificent documentaries on everything from gene splicing to black holes to the human brain to decoding Leonardo da Vinci.
Essential Movie: Lawrence Of Arabia (1962)
Harkening back to my youth again, my all-time favourite movie is Lawrence Of Arabia. I must have seen it 10 times! My parents bought the album for Christmas one year and I practically wore it out. The director, David Lean, was a genius. I had the somewhat nerve wracking experience of being conducted by Maurice Jarre, who had composed the fantastic music to this film, on a Los Angeles scoring stage for A Walk In The Clouds, which went on to win a Golden Globe. I was so thrilled to meet this man who had also written the music for Doctor Zhivago. Lawrence is an epic film with a cast of brilliant actors including Peter O’Toole, Omar Sharif, Julie Christie and Alec Guinness. Once you see this masterpiece of a film, that won seven Academy Awards, you can never forget it.
And below is her latest release, a remake of the '70s ear-candy hit Popcorn.