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Gordon Lightfoot, RIP
Canada has produced some of finest singers ever to take the stage. From Jodi Mitchell to Celine Dion, to Burton Cummings (lead singer for The Guess Who), to Anne Murray and Michael Buble, our neighbors up north seem to produce voices with a unique set of sounds that tear at the heart.
But in me estimation Gordon Lightfoot, with his deep and haunting voice, sits atop the leaderboard. Lightfoot’s blend of folk and rock was the unique, beautiful, and yes, manly. A rare commodity in today’s garbage pop.
Among my favorites is “The Ballad of the Yarmouth Castle.” While less known than “The Wreck of Edmund Fitzgerald,” the former will stir the soul in ways that will never be excelled.
Here it is:
.Published in General
My wife’s favorite is If You Could Read My Mind.
Is there a lyric more powerful than this one from Edmund Fitzgerald?
“Does anyone know where the love of God goes/ when the waves turn the minutes to hours?”
My favorite Gordon Lightfoot song:
Joni Mitchell (not Jodi)
Yes, and from the same song:
The man wrote some incredible lyrics. From “Carefree Highway”:
From the fore mentioned “If You Could Read My Mind” (about his divorce):
I’ve always adored Gordon Lightfoot. It’s genetic — I got it from Mom’s Zenith stereo/8-Track.
For sheer poetry, while remaining effortlessly accessible, I recommend Early Morning Rain, which serves a feast one savory crumb at a time. Heck of a way to tell a story. Here are the dirty hippies of Peter, Paul, and Mary doing it in a well-known cover, and darn it, when you’re
goodgreat you’re great. Nothing to take away from them, I straight-up love their version. But then you hear Lightfoot, and there’s the grit that PPM couldn’t find under a warehouse worth of sofa cushions.
One of my favorites for a bit of deft technique is Summer Side of Life. On the Greatest Hits CD mix, that organ goes “full Hammond” and seems to get an extra bar to stretch out in — if memory serves. On Youtube, you barely get a hint of it — in my car it sounds like Bach is his backup band, practically screeching in that tasty Hammond-y way. For a simple I-V-IV-I song, the repeated vi-vi7-IV-IIIs4~III rundown seems so out of place* that it makes the main verse seem trite and dishonest, a deceptive hope giving way to the heart-breaking chorus. Too spread out to be a true lament, yet lament it nonetheless does. Also, knowing that that organ comes in at the end makes the whole thing seem prelude to disaster.
You can hardly hear the jeezeless thing in this YouTube mix, but here’s the song:
Cotton Jenny seems ambiguous to me, like a cheerfully rendered mortal poke at somebody, with music and lyrics that could be House of the Rising Sun or, you know, not. Maybe I just can’t figure it out, but that song is haunted by something.
That’s What You Get for Loving Me as he callously discards a heartbroken girlfriend, Did She Mention My Name for lamenting the one that got away, and Race among the Ruins which gives up the meaning of another line each year I age.
Thank you Gordon Lightfoot.
* Summer Side of Life still bothering me. I keep thinking it’s gone to the relative minor, which fits with the emotional rug-pull. I need to get smart on this stuff again
When I was young, I liked Gordon Lightfoot’s music. In my late teens (late ’70s-early ’80s), I decided (as most of my peers did) that his music was “for wimps.” I matured and started to appreciate the meaning in his songs and the heartache in the lyrics that often accompanied an upbeat tune. Turns out that his music was meant for those who have lived a bit, not arrogant, stupid teenagers.
May he rest in peace.
When I was a kid, I thought what wrecked Edmund Fitzgerald was probably Ella Fitzgerald, but it turns out they never even met.
How could you leave off
Bitter Green is another one of my personal Gordon Lightfoot favorites.
Thanks for not putting Neil Young in your list.
That whole song is exceptional from beginning to end.
Unfortunately my husband and I saw him in person just a few years ago at a theater in Lakeland, FL. It was an unhappy experience. In addition to rowdy drunks in the audience, Gordon seemed to be ailing. I don’t know if he had aged beyond his time, and I felt really bad for him, but after his effort at several of his songs, we left early.
May he rest in peace.
Elvis did a great version of “Early Morning Rain.“
You (and others who are interested) should check out this breakdown by Rick Beato:
My brother saw him around the same time and said the same thing about his appearance and voice. I guess he just wanted to keep going as long as he could. The early 70’s singer-songwriters will not be equaled. What a gift he and others have left us.
I like this cover version by Foxes & Fossils.
I think that Sundown, while not terribly poetic or evocative, is world class cool!
Somewhere else on some other thread I said that for those that have faced an angry violent sea those words hold special significance. I think that line is the most powerful in all of rock and roll.
What he said.
I play Beautiful for my wife when she’s mad at me, it gets me out of trouble most of the time:
My wife would sock me.
I did say most of the time …..
There is an excellent documentary of Gordon Lightfoot’s life and career, featuring an extensive interview with the man himself as well as other musicians. It is available at Amazon (streaming).
Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind
The documentary includes a detailed, and heartfelt, discussion of one of his popular tunes: For Lovin’ Me.
For sheer screw the world vibe, I like The Mountains and Marian.
In fact, it’s free with Amazon prime right now. Thanks.
Rick Beato (mentioned in comment #17) shares his thoughts on the death on Gordon Lightfoot CC OOnt, in this video:
Despite being a Zeppelin fan, I really appreciate rock and pop singers with manly voices. To me, they stand out among the multitude of girly-sounding male castrati-type rock singers. A few come to mind – Johnny Cash, Jim Morrison, Tom Jones, Barry White, Leonard Cohen, Isaac Hayes, Elvis sometimes, even Tom Waits and Captain Beefheart(!)
Oh, I love this song!