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I was born in Montreal in 1946. My father, Irving Layton, who would later become the well-known poet, was barely making ends meet while my mother, Betty Sutherland, who would later change her name to Boschka, was a painter working as a cashier at a local restaurant.

My parents were, to say the least, unconventional. Atheists and socialists; they were part of a writers’ co-op. I remember the interior walls of my childhood home were lined with books and paintings and I remember there were frequent parties - artists of all kinds: dancers, potters, sculptors, actors and, of course, writers. One of these was a young poet who always brought his guitar. His name was Leonard Cohen. When I was twelve, my mother traded one of her paintings in return for Leonard giving guitar lessons to me. I've been in love with the guitar ever since.

My parents split up when I was 13. I remember my mother staring out the window and playing the same Leadbelly record over and over. Eventually, my mother and sister moved to California while I went to live with my father: I moved out when I was 16…

Somehow, I finished high school, then worked odd jobs - picking tobacco in southern Ontario, laying track in northern Manitoba, logging in B.C., apprentice car mechanic in Montreal, etc. - while putting myself through university. It took me ten years but finally I graduated with a BA in Eng. Lit. and Philosophy…

The trouble with being seventy years old is that by now I have too many memories – family, friends, enemies, canoe trips in the wilderness, Aikido, Tai Chi, the delicious loneliness of reading a good book at four in the morning in an all-night greasy spoon, the first time I saw my wife Sharon, the first time I saw an impossible bend in a telephone pole...

A few months later, I was legally blind.

Unable to work, I retreated into the darkness of my room and wrote my first album, Heartbeat of Time. Unable to read, I turned to my steel-string Martin guitar. And then a very strange thing happened - my fingers found new chords and I found myself singing new words and new melodies.

The good news is that, my eyesight restored thanks to the miracle of modern science, I am now able to read again - and write. In fact, I have since published two books of poetry and released four CDs.

No longer blind, filled with love and gratitude, my songs and poems celebrate the new world I see...


Max Layton
Cheltenham, Ontario


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