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Heaven’s own band just got a little bit better

Aww, no.

Gordon Lightfoot, a folk music and soft rock icon of the 1970s, is dead … according to his publicist.

Gordon, best known for his hit, “If You Could Read My Mind,” passed away Monday evening in Toronto, where he’d been hospitalized. His publicist, Victoria Lord, did not say why he was getting medical treatment or release a cause of death.

Ummm…best known for “If You Could Read My Mind,” SRSLY? Forgive me for saying so and all, but I doubt very much that that’s the one which will spring immediately to mind for most people. Personally, this will always be one of my faves.

There’s a cpl of latter-day in-concert pics included at the above-linked and -quoted obit which are truly ghastly. No matter, though; Lightfoot’s “Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald” is a pluperfect example of stellar songwriting and nimble, understated performance—a rare earwig of a story-song that, once you’ve heard it, will forever remain in your head and heart..and you won’t mind at all.

When suppertime came the old cook came on deck/Sayin’ “Fellas, it’s too rough t’feed ya.”/At seven P.M. a main hatchway caved in; he said/“Fellas, it’s been good t’know ya! Now THAT is some seriously good squishy, folks. I must’ve heard it a blue million times, but those lines STILL give me chills every time I hear ‘em again. From the song’s Wikipedia entry:

“The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” is a 1976 hit song written, composed and performed by Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot to commemorate the sinking of the bulk carrier SS Edmund Fitzgerald on Lake Superior on November 10, 1975. Lightfoot drew his inspiration from Newsweek’s article on the event, “The Cruelest Month”, which it published in its November 24, 1975, issue. Lightfoot considered this song to be his finest work.

The song recounts the final voyage of the Edmund Fitzgerald, as it experienced troubles then sank in rough seas on Lake Superior, late in the shipping season. Written before the wreckage of the ship was found, it deviates from the known sequence of events, and contains some artistic omissions and paraphrases. In a later interview, Lightfoot recounted how he had agonised over possible inaccuracies while trying to pen the lyrics, until producer Lenny Waronker advised him to play to his artistic strengths and “just tell a story”. Lightfoot’s passion for recreational sailing on the Great Lakes informs his ballad’s verses throughout.

A relatively minor hit when it was orginally released, “Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald” has lived on on classic rock radio playlists ever since, its near-universal popularity with listeners never fading—which is pretty danged good for an easy-listening, subtle folk-rock ballad, I should think. Rest easy, Gordon Lightfoot. You won’t soon be forgotten.


10 thoughts on “Heaven’s own band just got a little bit better

  1. The list of classic Gordon Lightfoot music is damned near everything he ever recorded.
    Just his Top Ten would dwarf most people’s and group’s entire catalogs.
    And none of them, AFAIK, have suffered a whit with age.

    Not bad for one guy with a guitar.
    84 years?
    One helluva run.

    1. What he said.

      RIP, Mr Lightfoot. Your fine music will live forever.

  2. Summer Side of Life is my favorite:

    And listening to The Canadian Railroad Trilogy still gives me chills. It’s a great tribute to capital and workers.

    1. Y’know, as a Birkenstock-shod hippie-type folk artist from the 60s-70s–an outdoorsy, Gaia-worshipping Canadian, for Chrissakes–one would naturally assume that Lightfoot was a dyed-in-the-wool, hardcore Leftist. But I can’t really recall him ever discussing his political leanings at all. Although admittedly, I could very well have missed it.

  3. Another great loss. Well Heaven gets better with it. RIP

  4. With all the tributes going around, I’d love to mention Gord’s OTHER shipwreck song. And one that I prefer to Edmund

  5. Sundown was written about backup singer/groupie/dealer/sidepiece Cathy Smith, who shot up John Belushi with the speedball that took his life.

  6. Sundown was a particular fave of mine, but he had a lot of great music.

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