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Liona Boyd

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  • Born: London, England
  • Years Active: 1980s, 1990s, 2000s


Biography All Music Guide

All Music Guide:

You can think of Liona Boyd as the woman who surreptitiously dated Pierre Elliott Trudeau while he was Canadian prime minister. Or the musician requested by Judge Lance Ito to entertain restless O.J. Simpson trial jurors. If you listen to her play, you can just as easily consider her one of the best guitarists in the world. After coming to Canada from her native England at age six, Boyd asked her parents for a guitar eight years later as a Christmas present. She took lessons from the legendary Julian Bream and Andres Segovia. She graduated with honors from the University of Toronto and won first prize in the Canadian National Music Competition. After studying privately in Paris for two years, Boyd returned to North America and recorded her first album in 1974. The Guitar, including works by J.S. Bach, Claude Debussy, and Isaac Albeniz was greeted warmly by critics and her debut at the Carnegie Recital Hall garnered rave reviews. Two years later, Liona offered more classical guitar, including 12 previously unrecorded works for that instrument. She played four more pieces by Bach, one by Mussorgsky, and one by Boyd, illustrating compositional gifts that would later flower. She subsequently composed everything on Classically Yours, and it won a Juno at the Canadian music awards. She's won five Junos and her adopted country honored her with the Order of Canada, although she's lived in Los Angeles since 1991. Boyd could have been an Air Miles poster girl as she performed all over the world. Her fresh, strawberry blonde looks couldn't have stood in the way of several appearances on late-night American TV variety shows, but she earned acclaim with her artistry. Broadening beyond classical music, Boyd toured with Gordon Lightfoot and Tracy Chapman, as well as recording with Zamfir, Roger Whittaker, and Chet Atkins. Her dalliance with popular music culminated with the 1986 album Persona, which included collaborations with Eric Clapton and Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour, as well as cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Other collaborators have included Liberace, Julio Iglesias, and Placido Domingo. Five times Guitar Player Magazine has named her the top classical guitarist. She's played private concerts for royalty, presidents, and prime ministers. In perhaps her oddest performance, Boyd strummed her strings for jurors deliberating Simpson's fate. She and her American husband, real estate developer John Simon, visited the courthouse under strict secrecy. Her 1998 autobiography In My Own Key: My Life in Love and Music includes details of her eight-year affair with Trudeau, who insisted they keep their relationship quiet, even sneaking her out of the Canadian prime minister's residence under a pile of coats on the floor of his car. One bumpy moment in their relationship came during a visit to Canada by Queen Elizabeth in 1977 when Boyd was exiled to the back of a banquet hall while the PM escorted ballerina Karen Kain. Besides her continuing love of music and an interest in painting, Boyd defends animal rights. In September 1998 she performed a benefit concert in California to raise money for the Last Chance for Animals group.

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