Gordon Lightfoot

  • Folk rock and country singer, guitarist and songwriter, born in Orillia Ontario Canada in 1938.
  • As a boy, Lightfoot sang in his church choir, and at local festivals. He won a vocal competition when he was 12 years old, and performed at Massey Hall in Toronto. He taught himself how to play piano, drums and acoustic guitar in high school. He moved to California in 1958 to study jazz composition and orchestration. While in California, he wrote and produced commercial jingles.
  • He returned to Canada in 1960 and performed with The Swinging Eight, a country band that performed on TV’s Country Hoedown. He released 2 singles in 1962 that were popular in Toronto and Montreal. That same year, he teamed with musician Terry Whelan, forming the duo called the Two-Tones. They released a live album. In 1963, he traveled to Europe, and hosted a country and western show on British TV, and the following year he returned to Canada. During this time, his songwriting skills were noticed by others. Two of his songs – Early Morning Rain and For Lovin’ Me – were recorded by several artists, including Peter, Paul and Mary, Elvis Presley, Judy Collins, and the Kingston Trio.
  • In 1965, he was signed to a recording contract. His first single was I’m Not Saying, and the following year it was included on his debut album, Lightfoot! He appeared at the Newport Folk Festival and on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, which increased his exposure. By now, his music was starting to chart in Canada, but not yet in the U.S. or abroad.
  • He released 3 more albums in the 60s. He changed record labels in 1970, and he released an album called Sit Down Young Stranger. It included his first hit single, If You Could Read My Mind, which peaked at #5 in the U.S. and at #1 in Canada. The album was re-titled to this song and re-released in 1971.
  • Three more albums followed that featured Lightfoot’s folk sound. Again, they were big sellers in Canada, and modest sellers elsewhere. His breakthrough came in 1974, with the release of the Sundown album. The album made it to #1 in the U.S. and sold over 1 million copies. The single of the same name peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and the follow-up single, Carefree Highway, reached #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart.
  • Lightfoot is best known for his 1976 song The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, released on his album Summertime Dream. The song describes the sinking of the iron ore freighter that perished in a storm on Lake Superior on November 10, 1975. The song reached #2 on the Hot 100 chart. It’s one of my all-time favorites.
  • Eight studio albums have been released since 1976 – his most recent, in 2004. A live album was released in 2012. A serious illness in 2002 slowed him down, though he recovered and he still tours today – he performed 80 concerts in 2017.
  • My friend Bill got me into Lightfoot when I was a teenager, and I still enjoy his music today. Enjoy his performance of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Love the steel guitar. Love the lyrics – “Does anyone know where the love of God goes, when the waves turn the minutes to hours…and all that remains is the faces and the names of the wives and the sons and the daughters.”

1 thought on “Gordon Lightfoot”

  1. The “Wreck of The Edmund Fitzgerald” brings back a lot ot memories from Economics Laboratories Inc. We had a division called the Magnus Maritime Division and they did business with the Edmund Fitzgerald. We were at work in the old 840 Bldg. when the news of the Edmund Fitzgerald came in. Pretty somber group.
    I went to see Gordon Lightfoot at the U of M in the 70’s . What a performer.
    Glad to see him on your blog

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