Gordon Lightfoot’s 10 Essential Songs
Bob Dylan once named Gordon Lightfoot one of his favorite songwriters, calling the musician “a man of rare talent” when he was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1986. Morning Rain,” Lightfoot listened carefully to Dylan’s songs, instilling in him a “more direct approach away from love songs.” he once said.
In a broad career that drew on Greenwich Village folk and Laurel Canyon pop, Gordon Meredith Lightfoot Jr., who died Monday at the age of 84, was part of a diverse group of musicians including Elvis Presley and Duran Duran and Lou Rolls and the Replacements. was accepted by He sings in a pathetic baritone with tenacity and an almost professorial vibe, and specializes in songs that dwell on loneliness and talk about unhappy relationships in grounded language that utilizes folk and blues modes. I was there.
“Lightfoot’s voice is the voice of the Romantic,” wrote Jeffrey Stokes of The Village Voice in 1974.
Nowhere was Lightfoot loved more than his native Canada. There he helped transform the music industry into a global force. Rush’s Geddy Lee said in the 2019 documentary If You Could Read My Mind, “He sent a message to the world that we are not a bunch of lumberjacks and hockey players here.” We are capable of sensibility and poetry.” In the process, Lightfoot became one of the most successful recording artists of the 1970s.
Here are 10 of Lightfoot’s most beloved and influential songs.
“For Lovin’ Me” (1966)
The folk tradition Lightfoot first tackled is filled with boastful songs about rambling men lighting up the fief, but this one is uniquely cruel. and David Rea’s sophisticated fingerpicking accents back it up, reinforcing the lyrical haute tulle. “Everything you have is gone,” Lightfoot says to the woman he’s leaving. “That’s what you get for loving me.” He later felt embarrassed by the song and said, “I didn’t know what chauvinism was.” .
“Early Morning Rain” (1966)
Lightfoot grew up in idyllic central Ontario not far from Memphis, but in this simple, lively folk song he has a closer Southern resonance. Presley recorded it years later. Its theme is homesickness (Lightfoot was living in Los Angeles when he wrote this piece). “I’m as cold and drunk as I can be,” the narrator, penniless, watches the 707 fly overhead and envies its freedom as he yearns for his hometown.
“Did she say my name?” (1968)
In this witty portrayal of wounded pride, Lightfoot shoots a breeze with an old friend, but amid chatting about sports and mutual acquaintances, he casually slips into the question, revealing his agenda. to name? ” This song and “For Lovin’ Me” are fraternal twins, fascinated by male pride.
“Black Day in July” (1968)
Lightfoot primarily addressed the relationship aspects of folk music, leaving the political aspects to others. The controversial Black Day of July, with its restless and unsettled drum track, was the July 1967 uprising in Detroit of black residents protesting police abuse. is explained. He urged the governor to send in the National Guard and urged the president to send in the military. The song is full of sarcasm, disrespect, and confusion (“The soul of Motor City is feared all over the world”), and most US radio stations refused to play it.
“If you could read my mind” (1970)
Lightfoot’s commercial breakthrough (which reached #5 on the Billboard Hot 100) is also his masterpiece, aided by Nick DeCaro’s cascading string arrangement. His impending divorce-inspired lyrics range from poetic to harsh, arriving at the stoic summary: “Stories always end.” This melody inspired Duran Duran’s “Save a Prayer,” which has been covered by such notable singers as Barbra Streisand, Johnny Cash, Neil Young, and almost by Frank Sinatra. . , declares it “too long”.
Lightfoot was well rounded, an alcoholic who knew a lot about intense relationships. He wrote “Sundown” in a jealous fantasy about his girlfriend, Kathy Smith, who once broke his cheekbone during a fight. The lyrics epitomize his dark, laconic romanticism, and his meandering guitar solo is one of Redshay’s finest moments.This song has been covered by Goth legends among others Scott Walker and depeche mode.
“Rainy Day People” (1975)
The mid-’70s was Lightfoot’s commercial peak, but the follow-up to Top 10 hits “Sundown” and “Carefree Highway” didn’t get the recognition it deserved. The chords and lyrics remind me of Jimmy Webb. Lightfoot, with his usual precise tone, celebrates how loyal friendships help “a high-pitched stutterer who lands on rock bottom.”
“The Shipwreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” (1976)
His most famous song, one of his most unlikely pop hits, is a six-and-a-half-minute folk ballad about a dead cargo ship that sank in Lake Superior a year ago. 29 crew members. It’s also the only Top His 40 song to mention her Gitche Gumee, the name of Lake Superior in Chippewa. Prank rock band NRBQ sometimes A slow, out of tune cover of a songif the audience doesn’t like it, play it again.
“The circle is small” (1978)
In some of Lightfoot’s lyrics, it’s hard to tell whether the conflicts he describes are factual or merely the byproduct of dubious imagination. In this soft and pejorative song about his wife, he believes his lover is using his friend’s apartment to have an affair, and hints that he will eventually catch her. “The city we live in may be quite large, but the circle is small.”
In the 1980s, as music moved away from the acoustic sound, Lightfoot pursued pop success with synthesizers, drum machines and producer David Foster, but it never became his own sound. By the time “Harmony” he was back working with guitarist Shea and his Terry Clements. Tobacco use had eroded the pinnacle of his purview, but the title track from his second-to-last studio album included looking back on his career (and his life) with mild regret. Like, fragile, hard-earned kindness is included.