Gordon Lightfoot’s Best Musical Moments

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As news spread of the death of the Canadian songwriting and singing legend on May 1, it was even more shocking to realize the full impact of his art and the breadth of his catalogue. To hear the virtuoso work of Lightfoot is to be pierced by its beauty.

Lightfoot rhetorically questioned his own storytelling craft in a 2020 interview with this author. “Am I psychologically invested and involved?” he tested himself. “Forks. Are these songs me? I guess. It’s very important that I write these songs, the work I do to get me there. All the poetic license allowed by those around me helps. But when they ask where it all comes from, I always say it’s my imagination.” Then, with his gallows humor, Lightfoot mocked, “Will people remember this, will they remember my work when I quack?”

They’ll be from the lightly trembling sensual tone of Lightfoot’s baritone vocals to the outspoken emotional lyrics and stunned folk sound of their 12-string acoustic guitar-based songs. Here are 12 great musical moments from the pen and voice of Gordon Lightfoot.


Nico, “I Don’t Tell” (1965)
Already a Canadian national treasure at this point, Lightfoot moved his wealth and base of operations to the United States, where he signed with Bob Dylan’s manager Albert Grossman and wrote and recorded his own version of this lighthearted romantic single. Yet—in a solo effort outside of the Velvet Underground—the “I’m Not Sayin'” version was Nico, who went deeper. Despite his usual icy look (to say nothing about Jimmy Page’s production and 12-string guitar), Nico’s version of Lightfoot’s lyrics is even hotter.


Gordon Lightfoot, “Early Morning Rain” (1966)
Canadian friends Ian and Sylvia Tyson are a hit with their version of “Early Morning Rain,” while Lightfoot’s raucous and beautifully edited rendition of aching hearts, growing pains, roaring engines, and drunkenly lost loved ones is much bolder than this hit. You can hear the beginnings of Lightfoot’s baritone vocal styles, backed by a sad pedal steel guitar.

Gordon Lightfoot, “Bitter Green” (1968)
Stoic yet soulful and gently provincial, Lightfoot has shown the way he has literally portrayed the women in his life (or dream). Plus, it compresses the word “eiderdown” into a tune without sounding pretentious. Wow.


Gordon Lightfoot, “If You Could Read My Mind” (1970)
One of the most brilliantly told shattered love stories, Lightfoot’s emotional distance from the imminent (real-life) divorce questions the existence of how the two people were initially shattered by the words “I’m just trying to understand the feelings we don’t have”. ” Also: lethal, supple melody.


Gordon Lightfoot, “The Return of Your Love (Song for Stephen Foster)” (1970)
A painfully gorgeous and curved string of melodies notices Lightfoot’s vocals rising an octave in his quest to return home to the one he loves. Still crying to hear.

Elvis Presley, “(Because You Love Me)” (1973)
Johnny Cash did a great and stoned job of narrating Lightfoot’s tribute to a lover’s kiss, but in Presley’s version of gentle rockabilly recorded in Nashville, their voices are colder than ever, smug and comfortably cool – sobbing vocals and all.


Gordon Lightfoot, “Sunset” (1974)
When Lightfoot added “Sundown” to its catalog, it did two things. He brought electric instrumentation and bold blues guitar licks to a soft, slick melody. And Gordon’s still stoic floating voice line manages to turn into a steamy show of sexuality as he writes about troubled love: “Getting lost in loving is your first mistake.”


Gordon Lightfoot, “Careless Highway” (1974)
Naming a song the highways and being carefree was a sure sign that it would lead to one of Lightfoot’s most lavishly open, wonderfully airy tunes and a country flair.


Gordon Lightfoot, “The Wreck of Edmund Fitzgerald” (1976)
This majestic saga should be honored in both the 6:30 album version and the 5:57 single (!) arrangement – a piece worthy of its own merit. In a near-to-bone melody filled with squirrelly synths and wobbly pedal steels, Lightfoot rhymes with Gitche Gumee more than a few times as he recounts a literary tale of a ship’s final voyage in almost sequential detail. That’s a great thing.

Gordon Lightfoot, “14K Gold” (1980)
A Beatles-worthy electric guitar-mined bridge and a silky, glossy arrangement offer Lightfoot the chance to “change the chips” and “be cool as ice” while creating a dozen enchanted metaphors for life and gambling.

Gordon Lightfoot, “Let the Bell Ring” (1993)
I’ve always been a Bob Dylan fan (and Dylan is a “Gordo” fan As Lightfoot once said he couldn’t find a Lightfoot song he didn’t like), he waited until the late 1990s to sing his contemporary heroine, with one of Minnesota’s finest songs from the Bard and feeling Bob’s tinkling in his mouth. vocal

Gordon Lightfoot, “The Laughter We Seek” (2020)
For her latest recorded album, “Solo,” Lightfoot’s baritone tone has softened, her melody has become a repetitive mantra, and her desire to connect, find joy and romance—even as her lovers go their separate ways—try to find everything. “In an ugly world” are the correct answers.

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