Gordon Lightfoot…Canadian Troubadour

One of the best singer-songwriters to come to us from Canada has passed away.  Gordon Lightfoot was 84.  He had been in poor health, and died in a Toronto hospital on May 1st, 2023.

Most Americans heard Gordon Lightfoot’s songs before we heard his voice.  In the 1960’s artists like Bob Dylan and Peter Paul & Mary recorded Lightfoot’s Folk songs.  They included “Early Morning Rain”, “Ribbon Of Darkness”, “Did She Mention My Name”, and “(That’s What You Get) For Lovin’ Me”.

In early 1971 Lightfoot started to duplicate his Canadian success in the U.S. with “If You Could Read My Mind”.  It went to #5 on the singles chart, and #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart.  His next hit was his biggest.

“Sundown” was Gordon Lightfoot’s only #1 on the Hot 100 singles chart.  The 1974 album, Sundown, was also #1 in the U.S. and Canada.  The album had another hit, “Carefree Highway” #10.  It was one of four #1’s on the AC chart for Lightfoot, with the fourth one being “Rainy Day People” in 1975.  It was then that we got a chance to catch up on some of Gordon Lightfoot’s best songs.

Gord’s Gold was a two-record set.  The first record included new recordings of his best 1960s songs, including the epic “Canadian Railroad Trilogy”, plus the songs other artists had success with during the 60s Folk revival.  Record two had his 70s hits and best album tracks.

There was one more big hit for Gordon Lightfoot.  In the folk tradition, Lightfoot wrote about a real event, “The Wreck Of The Edmond Fitzgerald”.  The ore freighter went down in Lake Superior during a storm in 1975.  The crew of 29 was lost.  The song was a hit in 1976, and that’s when we saw Gordon Lightfoot in concert.

Here are some photos I took during the concert.  They’re not up to today’s standards, but clicking to enlarge them will help.

The event was at the 4,500 seat Pershing Auditorium in Lincoln, Nebraska.  It was probably around that same time that I took this shot of the auditorium.  It held a lot of events in Lincoln until it closed in 2014.

The highlight of the show was his latest hit at the time, “The Wreck Of The Edmond Fitzgerald”.  I remember how great the audio was on this particular song, with dramatic full bass and drums.  It felt like the band was excited to be playing their new hit.  Over the years, Gordon Lightfoot has pointed to “The Wreck Of The Edmond Fitzgerald” (which was a #2 hit) as his best work.  “Sundown” is right there too, and his older songs are now considered Folk classics.

Although his greatest success was in the 1970s, Gordon Lightfoot continued to be a concert draw for decades, and was very highly esteemed in his native Canada.

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