True North is engaging from start to finish because the author is so passionate about music rather than just making money from his record company, True North Records. It’s refreshing to hear from someone who is driven by the sheer love of something other than cash, someone who doesn’t have an elaborate strategic plan for world domination underpinning every move.
That’s not to say Mr. Finkelstein isn’t all about hustling the next deal. As an army brat hanging around the pool hall or a music promoter and producer, he never stops hustling, whether it’s from a from a café payphone in Yorkville or, later, luxury office suites in Manhattan and L.A.
Of particular value is the vivid, first-hand recounting of the music scene and ambience of Toronto’s Yorkville neighbourhood in the 1960s and early 1970s. That’s where Mr. Finkelstein built a career as a promoter, manager and friend to Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, John Kay, Bruce Cockburn and Murray McLauchlan, Dan Hill and Carole Pope, among many others.
His deep involvement in the Canadian music business also made Mr. Finkelstein an early and effective advocate for the Canadian content regulations that exist today. They stemmed from his fury at the unwillingness of Canadian broadcasters to use public airwaves to showcase homegrown talent.
Decades later, Mr. Finkelstein is still seething that broadcasters would blackball the music of any producers who publicly spoke out against their practices. He claims, “The threat of reprisals against anyone who would dare to speak out against the broadcasters was a real and present danger.”
After decades of booking night club acts, navigating the record industry, conducting contract negotiations with major U.S. labels, managing bands and musicians and organizing and promoting concerts, Mr. Finkelstein declares that “by 1981 there was truly a Canadian music business.”
By the time True North was sold in 2007, Mr. Finkelstein had put out 500 albums and countless singles, earned 40 gold and platinum albums and won 50 Juno Awards.
His legacy lives on at True North which continues to showcase and promote new Canadian talent and music. But there’s a pretty good chance it’s a lot less fun without him in the mix.