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Gordon Lightfoot, R.I.P.

Gordon Lightfoot, R.I.P.

Farewell, Gordon. If you could read my mind, what a tale my thoughts could tell.

Gordon Lightfoot, one of my musical heroes, has passed away at age 84. His wonderful songs, some of the best of which never made the charts, are too numerous to name, but here are a few:

GORDON LIGHTFOOT — a genius-level Canadian singer-songwriter whose most enduring works include “If You Could Read My Mind,” “Sundown,” “Carefree Highway,” “Early Morning Rain,” and “Rainy Day People” — died on Monday, the CBC confirmed. He was 84.

Lightfoot’s deceptively simple songs, which fused folk with pop and country rock, have been covered by everyone from Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash to the Grateful Dead, Barbra Streisand, Jerry Lee Lewis, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Buffett, and the Replacements.

He scored a series of hits in his native Canada throughout the Sixties, but most Americans first heard his work in 1970 when “If You Could Read My Mind” reached Number Five on the Hot 100.,,,’

The success of “If You Could Read My Mind” in 1970 was the start of a stunning run of hits, including “Sundown,” “Carefree Highway,” and “Rainy Day People.” The biggest came in 1976 after he read an article in Newsweek about the the sinking of the bulk carrier SS Edmund Fitzgerald on Lake Superior on November 10, 1975. He called the epic maritime disaster song, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”

If there is one song of his that stands out to me, it’s Early Morning Rain, a song I played over and over again in my mind as I travelled alone through Europe in college, repeatedly stuck with no place to go.

In the early morning rain with a dollar in my hand
With an aching in my heart and my pockets full of sand
I’m a long way from home, Lord, I miss my loved ones so
In the early morning rain with no place to go

Gordon was featured many times in our Video of the Day series, the last time being in August 2021. Call it my playlist (copy and paste the “code” into YouTube, or just Google the code, to listen):

Summertime Dream – 2yu9gEENumI
Carefree Highway – iYuF99VTEdg
The Way I Feel – pAx3nDUA9wM
Rainy Day People – x2Sb1gtzmsc
I’m Not Sayin – 5Af5d1FeJn4
Summer Side of Life – 7Gs98fVoHVI
Your Love Returns – gC8iAGSr4pU
Did she mention my name – VfPZUKHYEh8
Saturday Clothes – F4anOSSGm6U
Beautiful – 3_lt5O40ps
Canadian Railroad Trilogy – NjoU1Qkeizs
Edmund Fitzgerald – Q0DqPSF2fyo
For Loving Me – WpkATS6mjbc
Early Morning Rain – iTu-jHcwhts
If you could read my mind – bAedY3NucEs
Sundown – sSmv38nClGo

Some of his songs were epic. Everyone thinks of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald:

But nothing was more epic than the Canadian Railroad Trilogy, which created an image of a wild and free-spirited Canada in my mind that prevails today (even though reality now is quite different):

This one I always dedicated to The Wife when we played it. It may be the greatest love song ever to receive so little attention.

Farewell, Gordon. If you could read my mind, what a tale my thoughts could tell.


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A fine writer and singer. The old guard is dying off fast.

CommoChief | May 2, 2023 at 8:18 am

A true artist. It’s always a surprise to me when I read of the passing of folks who were well into adulthood or in the case of Lightfoot solidly in the center of his three score and ten when I was born. It sort of reveals our own expiration date, reminding us of our mortality and inviting us to make the most of the time we have left.

The Packetman | May 2, 2023 at 8:19 am

If you can make it through ‘The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald’ without at least getting moist in the eyes …

RIP, Mr Lightfoot … fair winds and following seas.

    MarkSmith in reply to The Packetman. | May 2, 2023 at 9:32 am

    Great writeup in

    Not a fan of wikipedia but they one is well down.

    Yes, WEF gets me everytime. As the freezing cold waters of Lake Superior in the hots days of July, It demands respect. RIP Gordon, you have been a part of most of my life in a small but powerful way.

      MarkSmith in reply to MarkSmith. | May 2, 2023 at 9:42 am

      *’Not a fan of wikipedia but this one is well done.” Not enough coffee today.

      Think38 in reply to MarkSmith. | May 5, 2023 at 7:45 pm

      From Wiki:

      After the death of singer Gordon Lightfoot on May 1, 2023, the ship’s bell was ceremonially rung 29 times in memory of the crew, plus an additional ring in memory of Lightfoot who committed their deaths to posterity.[195]

    SophieA in reply to The Packetman. | May 4, 2023 at 10:38 pm

    The line that evokes tears every time:
    Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours?

    From one poet to another:*
    Goodnight, Mr Lightfoot. May flights of angels sing you to your rest.

    *apologies to Mr Shakespeare

Fat_Freddys_Cat | May 2, 2023 at 8:56 am

Many of his deep cuts were fantastic too even if they didn’t get radio airplay, like “Spanish Moss” and “Tattoo”.

A tremendous talent. RIP, Gordon Lightfoot. Three versions of “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” worth checking out: The mid-60s original, the late-60s live version, and the ’70s “sweetened” take on “Gord’s Gold.”

    alaskabob in reply to Rab. | May 2, 2023 at 12:10 pm

    Epic song….

    I’ll add “Song For A Winter’s Night”. Being in The Great White North – US side, I enjoy the song. Also, having lived on Kodiak Island (just behind Ketchikan for liquid sunshine)…. “Rainy Day People”. He had a song for every occasion in life.

Old Dan’s Records.

I can recall the words and music to almost all of Gord’s records, but can barely remember which hymn I sang in church last Sunday.

The sponge of youth VS the seive of (getting older) age.

Rest in Peace.

As a Michigander ain’t nobody around here who doesn’t know “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”

Tim Bachman and Gordon in less than a week. Canada is losing its musical giants quickly it seems

It’s an ill wind… The truly sad news of Gordon Lightfoot’s passing has provided a solitary exemplar of agreement between Justin Trudeau and I. Gordon will be missed, Justin not so much when he goes.

How could anyone not love his music?

RIP sir

Listening to the Lifetime achievement reward, can’t believe they waited til 2021, it was very sad that the cancel culture got to him too, apologizing for his past misogynistic lyrics…

I have only been to two “concerts” in my life.. one was Gordon Lightfoot.

My favorite,, and there are so many.. Christian Island.

I hope he is there now..

Tall and strong she slips along
I sing for her a song
And she leans into the wind
She’s a good old boat and she’ll stay afloat
Through the toughest gales and keep smilin’
When the summer ends we will rest again
In the lee of Christian Island

When the summer ends we will rest again
In the lee of Christian Island

Sail on…. sail on.

BeAChooser | May 2, 2023 at 2:01 pm

Gordon will be sorely missed. Here’s a few more tunes I’d add to those already mentioned … Steel Rail Blues, Circle of Steel, and last but not least, Minstrel of the Dawn … because that’s what he was … a minstrel par excellence.

For the Professor. 2021, Reno, sounds awfully good for a man in his 80’s