For the past four decades blues, country, gospel and other assorted roots music styles have maintained an inordinate influence in and around Toronto. Colin Linden has been an integral part of this scene since he was a teenager. In the quarter century since he recorded Robert Johnson’s “They’re Red Hot” as a fifteen year old for Sylvia Tyson’s CBC show “Touch the Earth,” Colin has blossomed into what can only be described as a national treasure. As a songwriter, producer, guitarist and singer, Linden has successfully integrated the roots music style he has been intoxicated with from the age of eleven into a body of work that is emotionally mature, stylistically diverse and, ultimately, extraordinarily moving. The journey along the way has been fascinating.
Born in Toronto, as an infant Linden’s family moved to White Plains, New York. It was there at the tender age of four while watching the Lloyd Thaxton Show on TV that the music bug first hit him.
Colin was originally drawn to the organ and drums but seeing an advertisement for a guitar and amplifier at the age of eight ultimately proved to be too alluring. “I couldn’t avoid it,” he laughs. “I had to play guitar!”
Linden spent time taking vocal lessons from Bourbon Tabernacle Choir singer Dave Wall. Part of the reason to go to Dave Wall was Linden’s deepening interest in the gospel tradition. “Dave had such a deep understanding of gospel music,” continues Linden. “At the time I was getting into a form that was more of a singer’s than a player’s form. With blues, I was drawn to the guitar so much that for me it was more of a player’s form. With gospel, it was really a singer’s medium.” Of how many artists can it be said that they’re getting better, 34 years into their recording career? Colin Linden can certainly be considered a member of that select club based a storied career that has featured his work on literally hundreds of records. At last count, the total of albums on which he has played stood at over 300, while at least 70 albums bear the ‘Produced by Colin Linden’ credit.