Lightfoot!

One of the strongest hooks of the vinyl adventure which Paloma and I have recently set out upon is the affordability of discovering music that had been previously unheard. Or, in the case of Gordon Lightfoot, familiarizing ourselves with the work of an artist with whom our knowledge is middling (although Paloma informs me that, via her grandmother, she has middled more with Gordon than I).

At a previous job, two of my closest friends and I would spontaneously blurt out “Lightfoot!” in a fashion similar to Jerry Seinfeld muttering “Newman!” I don’t think any of us considered Gordon to be an arch-nemesis and I doubt that any of us knew much more of the man’s music aside from his hits.

So, several weeks ago, while browsing for albums, when I came across a copy of his two-LP set Gord’s Gold for a mere dollar, I pounced. It’s proven to be worth several times what I paid, providing a calming effect on me as I commute to work down what can hardly be described as a carefree highway (Sting was more accurate when, in the song Synchronicity II, he referred to “rush hour hell” and drivers “packed like lemmings into shiny metal boxes, contestants in a suicidal race.”).

As much as I’ve enjoyed Gord’s Gold, I’ve been hesitant to purchase other titles of his and much of it has to do with the album covers and his appearance which, to me, is a disappointment.

See, maybe it’s because of his signature song The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald, but it is difficult for me to picture Lightfoot as anything other than a nautical sort. Note the contrast between the cover for Gord’s Gold and his 1967 album The Way I Feel.

The scallywag on the cover of the former could comfortably sit with Robert Shaw’s Quint in some coastal dive, telling bawdy jokes and recounting tales from the briny deep, punctuating things with a rum-soaked “Aye!”

The freshly-scrubbed, earnest fellow on the cover of the latter would likely risk being reduced to tears by a profanity-laced tirade for failing to double-bag Quint’s groceries at the A&P.

But, as I am greatly enjoying the man’s rich baritone and evocative lyrics and, as Bob Dylan and Robbie Robertson have declared themselves to be fans of the Canadian troubadour, maybe I just need to stay focused on the music.

I haven’t spent enough time with Gord’s Gold to know much of it well, but I do quite like Canadian Railroad Trilogy , which reminds me, thematically, of Dire Strait’s epic Telegraph Road (which features some wicked playing by Mark Knopfler).

I know that I’ve come across the song on some music blog and I thought it had appeared on Echoes In The Wind. During a quick search, I couldn’t find it, but whiteray does appear to be in agreement with Dylan and Robertson as there are numerous appearances by Lightfoot, including a really nice entry on The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald.

I also ripped Gord’s Gold from vinyl as album sides, so the four songs which I do have as individual tracks are ones with which even casual music fans are likely familiar.

Gordon Lightfoot – The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald
I would have to think that even my late grandmother knew this song. Is The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald the Stairway To Heaven of ’70s singer/songwriters? Can I get a ruling?

The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald actually does not appear on Gord’s Gold as it was released the year after Gord’s Gold.

Gordon Lightfoot – If You Could Read My Mind
I’ve read that this song is about the break-up of Lightfoot’s first marriage and it certainly is a somber affair. Of course, it also is a good example of the smooth-talking ways of Lightfoot, so I imagine he was fairly suave when it came to the ladies.

Gordon Lightfoot – Carefree Highway
Gordon loves the open road, apparently as much as I love bacon. If Gordon and I were on a road trip, you can be damned sure that we’d be eating bacon along the way (and likely arguing over what radio station to listen to).

Oh yeah, apparently there is a stretch of interstate in central Arizona which is actually referred to as the Carefree Highway.

Gordon Lightfoot – Sundown
According to Wikipedia, Sundown is about Cathy Smith, Lightfoot’s girlfriend at the time, who even drove his tour bus. She later became a drug dealer and, most infamously, was involved in the death of John Belushi, allegedly selling him the drugs that killed him (and by some accounts being the person who injected him).

On All Music Guide, the reviewer interprets the song as being about the complications of falling in love with a prostitute (are there tour bus-driving hookers?).

Maybe Lightfoot is, indeed, a scallywag.

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12 Responses to Lightfoot!

  1. Any major dude with half a heart says:

    A fine post on a rather under-appreciated singer. But, as you so validly explain, it so EASY to underappreciate our friend. The name alone…

    I don’t know whether his version of Early Morning Rain is the original, but it’s the best I’ve heard. Yeah, better than Cash even.

  2. jb says:

    These four songs are a perfect introduction to Lightfoot. “If You Could Read My Mind” still knocks me out nearly 38 years after I first heard it.

  3. Sun Singer says:

    Ah, one of my favourite singers. Gords Gold is a fine album. He came through the Atlanta area earlier this year, and my wife and I went to see the concert. I’m just happy he’s still singing, still out on the road.

    Malcolm

  4. whiteray says:

    A great songwriter and peformer, to be sure. Having digested “Gord’s Gold,” you’d be well-off to go find the albums on which those songs originally appeared. The original versions, methinks, are better. Here’s a sampler of his best albums overall (my opinion only): “Did She Metion My Name” (1968), “If You Could Read My Mind” (1970), “Sundown” (1973), “Shadows” (1982) and East of Midnight” (1986).

  5. Jude says:

    Got your ruling on “Wreck…”:
    If all things are equal in the world of Yacht Rock enthusiasts, then The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald is practically the de facto national anthem. It works on many levels, if not for the repeated citing of “…the big lake they call Gitchigumi”.

    …and yeah, I know ALL the words.

    I’m that gay.

  6. […] I’ve expressed my curiousity with Mr. Lightfoot before. […]

  7. Perplexio says:

    I must agree on JB’s sentiments on If You Could Read My Mind. Lyrically speaking it’s far superior to The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

    However speaking of Seinfeld connections, there was the episode where Elaine thought the song was “The Wreck of the Gordon Lightfoot” and kept talking about what a great singer Edmund Fitzgerald was.

  8. Sheila says:

    Early Morning Rain is indeed an original Lightfoot tune, it appears on one of his very first albums, can’t think which right now dating back to at least 1967 or thereabouts. It has been covered by Peter, Paul and Mary and Elvis Presley among others. I have been a Lightfoot fan for at least that long although I have to confess that I haven’t bought an album since Dream Street Rose. If you like Gord’s Gold you should look for A Sunday Concert which is a live recording and is fantastic. If you like The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald you will love The Ballad of the Yarmouth Castle. It can bring you to tears. Honestly. Apology is ridiculously good. Affair on 8th Avenue is another song that is absolutely brilliant and probably the reason Dylan is a fan although it’s not on Sunday Concert. There are so many insanely brilliant Lightfoot tunes that I can’t mention them all here but for sure buy anything you can get your hands on (but confidentially, I think Dream Street Rose was the last album where he made a significant contribution to music after that his songs all started to sound the same).

  9. […] I’ve expressed my curiousity with Mr. Lightfoot before. […]

  10. […] I like The Lightfoot (as I’ve noted before). […]

  11. […] I like The Lightfoot (as I’ve noted before). […]

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