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|Origin||Toronto, Ontario, Canada|
|Genres||Rock, jazz fusion|
|Labels||RCA, GRT, Evolution, Vertigo, Polydor, Denon, Universal|
Lighthouse is a Canadian rock band formed in 1968 in Toronto, Ontario. Their sound included horns, string instruments, and vibraphone; their music reflected elements of rock music, jazz, classical music, and swing. They won Juno Awards for Best Canadian Group of the Year in 1972, 1973, and 1974.
Lighthouse was formed in 1968 in Toronto by vocalist/drummer Skip Prokop (formerly of the Paupers) and keyboardist Paul Hoffert. The two met on a flight from New York City to Toronto, and discussed forming a band structured around a rock rhythm section, jazz horn section, and classical string section. Prokop had admired Ralph Cole's playing when they shared the bill at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit, so he invited him to Toronto to be the band's guitarist. Prokop and Hoffert assembled the rest of the group from friends, studio session musicians, and Toronto Symphony Orchestra members, and proceeded to make a demo recording.
On the advice of Richie Havens, Prokop and Hoffert took the demo to MGM Records in New York, who signed the band. Two days later they had a manager, Vinnie Fusco, from Albert Grossman's office, who overturned the MGM contract and made a deal with RCA Victor.
Lighthouse made its performing debut on May 14, 1969, at the Rock Pile in Toronto, introduced by Duke Ellington with the words, "I'm beginning to see the Light...house". The band originally consisted of 13 members:
One of the first Lighthouse concerts was at Carnegie Hall, and in its first year the band also played at Fillmore East, Fillmore West, Toronto, Boston, the Atlantic City Pop Festival, and the Monterey and Newport Jazz Festivals. A free concert at Toronto City Hall in the summer of 1969 drew a reported crowd of 25,000. Their first album, Lighthouse, was released in 1969 by RCA from RCA's Toronto Eastern Sound Studio.
Their next album, Suite Feeling, was also recorded in 1969 at Toronto Eastern Sound Studio. It featured two cover songs: The Band's "Chest Fever" and The Beatles' "A Day In The Life". Their third and final album for RCA was also the last one for original lead singer Pinky Dauvin. The album Peacing It All Together was recorded in RCA’s Music Centre of the World Hollywood Studios. The songs "Feel So Good", "If There Ever Was a Time", and "The Chant" were minor hits in Canada during the band's time with RCA.
In the summer of 1970, Lighthouse represented Canada and Ontario at Expo '70 in Japan where they were popular. The band appeared at the Strawberry Fields Festival in August 1970, followed by the Isle of Wight Festival where they performed two nights among groups that included The Doors, Joni Mitchell, Chicago, Miles Davis, and The Who. One of the band's more challenging moments was turning down an opportunity the summer before to perform at Woodstock.
At the end of 1970, Lighthouse moved to the record label Evolution (US)/GRT (Canada) and Toronto’s Thunder Sound Studios. There were some lineup changes; the band dropped from thirteen musicians to eleven, including only five original members (Prokop, Hoffert, Cole, Dinovo, and Shore). The most notable change was a new lead singer in Bob McBride.
In 1971, Lighthouse released One Fine Morning and Thoughts of Movin' On on Evolution/GRT. The title track from One Fine Morning was a hit in Canada, peaking at #2 on Canada's Singles Chart. The song was also an international and American hit, peaking at #24 in 1971 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, with both albums 'going gold' in Canada. It was preceded on the Canadian charts by "Hats Off to the Stranger" (#9 in Canada). That year the band performed at the anniversary celebration concert in the city of Hamilton.
In between recording albums and touring 300 days a year, the band was involved in innovative projects, including the first performances by a rock band with symphony orchestras, a collaboration with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet company, Ballet High, which toured across Canada, and a CBC production of Prometheus Bound with actress Irene Worth.
During this period of recording from 1970 to 1971 with Evolution/GRT, RCA Records released a double album best-of in 1971 consisting of selections from the first three records recorded with RCA entitled One Fine Light.
Lighthouse Live! was recorded live at Carnegie Hall in February 1972 and released on Evolution/GRT. This was the first time a Canadian album qualified for platinum status. Music Galaxy, a Santa Barbara, CA, record store, sold a copy of this double-album in their bargain bin back in 1979 for $3 and is credited as being an incredible bargain even to this day. The band came back later that year with another gold album, Sunny Days, on Evoution/GRT. The title song became the band's next Canadian hit single and second Hot 100 single, peaking at #34 on 9 December 1972. Hoffert, tired of life on the road, left the band in 1973 but continued as the band's executive producer. Bob McBride for some reason failed to appear at the Record Plant in New York for the recording of "Can You Feel It" which was released on the Polydor Label. Prokop and Cole wanted to scrap the sessions but producer Jimmy Ienner insisted they continue. He decided that whoever wrote the song would sing it. With the exception of "No More Searching", written and sung by new sax player Dale Hillary, Prokop and Cole sang all the vocals and harmonies on the album. The result was one of the band's biggest single releases, "Pretty Lady", which was a top-10 Canadian hit and was their final Hot 100 hit in the US, reaching #53.
The band released Good Day also on Polydor, in 1974. As with the previous album, the lead vocals were divided between Skip Prokop and Ralph Cole, but Prokop switched to guitar full-time and the drummer was Billy King. The album produced no hits, but did contain "Wide-Eyed Lady", a song co-written by Bob McBride. At Thunder Sounds Recording Studios, the band began work on a new album, and had recorded several tracks when Prokop left the band. The album was never completed. Ralph Cole took the band out for another couple of tours but in 1976 Lighthouse disbanded. Janus/GRT released Best of Lighthouse in late 1976 to capitalize on their past success.
Prokop, Hoffert, Cole, and McBride reunited along with many of the Lighthouse alumnae in September 1982 for a weekend of four large concerts at Ontario Place. In 1989 Denon Records bought the rights to the Evolution/GRT recordings and released -Sunny Days Again:The Best of Lighthouse (No U.S. Issue). The re-mix of the album was produced by Hoffert, Cole, Prokop, and McBride. In 1992 the band reunited with a ten-member line-up which included the founding members Prokop, Hoffert, and Cole with McBride on vocals. McBride was dismissed several months later. He was replaced by Dan Clancy. Three years later Breaking Records released Song of the Ages. The single, "Remember the Times", was a top-thirty hit in Canada. In 1998 the original master tapes of The Best of Lighthouse-Sunny Days Again were digitally re-mastered and released on CD by True North Records who also re-released Song of the Ages in 1999.
After Lighthouse disbanded in the '70s, many of the players continued with their musical careers while some went in different directions.
Paul Hoffert has continued his career as a film composer, winning a Genie Award in 1978 for his score for the cult-hit movie Outrageous!; headed up the Ontario Arts Council from 1994 to 1997; created and was the Director of CulTech from 1992 to 2000, a Research Centre at York University, and has written five books exploring the intersection of culture and technology. In 2004 he received the Order of Canada.
Prokop and Cole formed other bands with some success before hitting their stride in the advertising world and as record producers. Saxophonist Howard Shore became the music director for Saturday Night Live and began a career in film composition, emerging as one of Hollywood's most sought after composers. Shore won three Academy Awards for The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Don DiNovo bought a church in Arthur, Ontario, and turned it into a recording studio. Dick Armin continued his work as a creator of electronic string instruments.
Russ Little has continued as a musician and composer. He can be heard on numerous releases including his own albums, Snapshot, Footwork, and On the Shoulders of Giants. He was voted Best Trombonist of 2007 by Canada's National Jazz Awards. John Naslen became a recording engineer (he engineered the 1994 Lighthouse "Song of the Ages" release). Grant Fullerton continues to perform with his own band.
Louie Yacknin opted out of music altogether and bought a tire installation company. Larry Smith moved to Israel and created a software company for language translation. Bob McBride became a top studio session singer and was heard on numerous commercials but he suffered from drug abuse and serious illness, and died February 20, 1998, of heart failure in Toronto. Arnie Chycoski, Don DiNovo, Keith Jollimore, Alan Wilmot, Dale Hillary, Freddie Stone, are all deceased.
Lighthouse has remained together since they reunited in 1992. Since that time they have recorded one new studio album, Song of the Ages, in 1996. The rhythm section for the ten-member group features the original founders, Prokop (drums), Hoffert (keyboards and vibraphone), and Cole (guitar) with Don Paulton (keyboard), Doug Moore (bass), and Dan Clancy (vocals). The horn section is made up of original member, trombonist Russ Little, Simon Wallis (saxophones and flute), Chris Howells (trumpet), and saxophonist Steve Kennedy who performed with the band at Ontario Place in 1982. Lighthouse continues to perform and create innovative works including a reunion concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra that was broadcast nationally, a tour of Brazil with an original multimedia stage show in collaboration with the Desrosiers Dance Theatre, and a series of concerts in which sections of the band performed in different locations across Toronto linked together by broadband cable. In 1995 Lighthouse was inducted into the Q107 Canadian Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
Lighthouse songs have been used in films and covered by other artists including Three Dog Night, Shobha, and Carlos Santana. Rap artist Akon has sampled "I'd Be So Happy" and Japanese rock stars Theatre Brook perform One Fine Morning in their stage show.
For Lighthouse's 40th anniversary, Ole/Universal Records released 40 Years of Sunny Days, a retrospective of their biggest hits, featuring digitally remastered tracks, and a DVD of new performances recorded at Q Music in 5.1 Surround Sound.
They continue to perform and tour extensively across Canada.
On July 19, 2013, it was announced that the band will be appearing on the second annual Moody Blues Cruise in April, 2014 on the cruise ship MSC Ship Divina.
Skip Prokop passed away Wednesday (Aug. 30, 2017) from heart complications. He was 73.
|Year||Album||Canada RPM||US Top 200|
|1970||Peacing It All Together||73||133|
|1971||One Fine Morning||14||80|
|Thoughts of Movin' On||11||157|
|One Fine Light (Double Best Of)||-||-|
|1973||Can You Feel It||8||-|
|1976||Best of Lighthouse||56||-|
|1989||Sunny Days Again:The Best of Lighthouse||80||No Issue|
|1999||Song of the Ages||-||-|
|2009||40 Years of Sunny Days||-||-|
|US BB||US CB||US AC|
|1969||"If There Ever Was A Time"||-||-||-||-||-|
|"Could You Be Concerned?"||-||-||-||-||-|
|"Feel So Good"||55||-||-||-||-|
|1971||"Hats Off (To The Stranger)"||9||-||-||-||-|
|"One Fine Morning"||2||-||24||16||30|
|"Take It Slow (Out In The Country)"||12||-||64||-|
|1972||"I Just Wanna Be Your Friend"||54||-||93||-|
|"Broken Guitar Blues"||34||-||-||-||-|
|"Can You Feel It?"||19||-||-||-||-|
|"Magic's In The Dancing"||-||-||-||-||-|
"One Fine Morning" and "Pretty Lady" also charted on the U.S. Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, at #30 and #38 respectively.