Gordon Meredith Lightfoot Jr., CC
(hon.) (born November 17
) is a Canadian folk
Lightfoot was born November 17, 1938 to Jessica Lightfoot and Gordon Meredith Lightfoot in Orillia
. As a youth, he sang in the choir of St. Paul's United Church under the direction of choir-master Ray Williams. During this time as a "boy soprano" Lightfoot made several appearances on local radio and local operetta and oratorios as well as Kiwanis
music festivals. Lightfoot remarked in 2005 that it was choir master Williams who "taught him how to sing with emotion and how to have confidence in his voice".
[MacFarlane, David, Gordon Lightfoot feature in "People" column, The United Church Observer, January 2006]
As a teenager, Lightfoot studied piano and taught himself drums and percussion instruments.
Lightfoot moved to California
, where he studied jazz composition and orchestration at Hollywood
's Westlake College of Music in 1957-58. He returned to Canada and through 1958 to '61 he was performing with The Swinging Eight
a group that appeared on CBC
TV's Country Hoedown
as well as performing with the Gino Silvi Singers
. He also began performing in the coffee houses of the Toronto folk
scene, playing guitar and singing folk songs. He sang with Terry Whelan in a duo called the Two Tones and they recorded a live album that was released in 1962 called Two Tones at the Village Corner
(1962, Chateau CLP-1012).http://www.lightfoot.ca/tonelist.htm
In 1963 Lightfoot travelled to Europe and became for one year the host of BBC
TV's Country and Western Show
. By 1964, he was back in Canada and that year he appeared at the Mariposa Folk Festival
Lightfoot was gaining some recognition by this time as a songwriter and two of his songs ("For Lovin' Me" and "Early Mornin' Rain") were covered by Ian and Sylvia Tyson
. "For Lovin' Me" was covered again a year later in 1965 by Peter, Paul and Mary
, who had a hit with it. That song was again covered by Chad and Jeremy
as well as the Johnny Mann Singers
. During this time, other artists such as Marty Robbins
("Ribbon of Darkness"), Leroy Van Dyke
("I'm Not Saying"), Judy Collins
, Richie Havens
, The Kingston Trio
and Harry Belafonte
were racking up hits with Lightfoot's songs. In 1966, his debut album Lightfoot!
was released and it brought him recognition as a singer as well as a songwriter. It featured many now-famous songs including "For Lovin' Me", "Early Mornin' Rain", "Steel Rail Blues", and "Ribbon of Darkness".
On the strength of this album, which mixed Canadian and universal themes, Lightfoot became one of the first Canadian singers to achieve real stardom in his own country without moving to the United States
. The album was released internationally and was also well-received. It was followed by numerous other albums through the late 1960s. But he remained better known as a songwriter than as a singer, with cover versions of his songs recorded by artists such as Bob Dylan
, Johnny Cash
and Elvis Presley
Lightfoot embarked on his first Canadian national tour in 1967. It included performances in New York City
. Between 1967
, Lightfoot toured internationally through Europe
as well as two well received tours of Australia
. He curtailed his touring schedule in 1972
after contracting Bell's palsy
, a condition which left his face partially paralyzed for a time.
It was not until 1971
that his own version of "If You Could Read My Mind
" became a Top Ten hit. The song was originally featured on his 1970
album Sit Down Young Stranger
which had not sold well. After the success of the song, the album was re-released under the new title If You Could Read My Mind
to capitalize on the success of the song. It was also in 1971 that on a bus bound for Calgary
, Gordon met a lonely teenage girl named Grace on her way home from Toronto
. The following year, the song "Alberta Bound" found its debut on the Don Quixote
In 1974, his classic single, "Sundown
", from the album
of the same name, went to No.1
on the American
charts. "Carefree Highway", the followup single from the same album, charted in the Top Ten.
[Lightfoot! The Gordon Lightfoot Internet Companion. http://www.lightfoot.ca/chron03.htm www.lightfoot.ca/chron03.htm, retrieved Nov, 3, 2006.]
Two years later, Lightfoot had an unexpected hit with a song with the unlikeliest of subject matter. In late November 1975
, Lightfoot read a Newsweek
magazine article about the Great Lakes
ore carrier SS Edmund Fitzgerald
sinking during a severe storm. Tragically, all of her 29 crew members died. His song, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
", most of the lyrics of which were taken from the article, reached #2 on the U.S. Billboard
charts. "Sundown" and "Edmund Fitzgerald" continue to receive heavy airplay on many classic rock stations. After "Edmund Fitzgerald" Lightfoot would have one more top 40 hit on the Hot 100, "The Circle Is Small (I Can See It In Your Eyes)" in early 1978
Through the 1990s, Lightfoot released two albums and played about fifty tour dates a year. In the fall of 2002
, he was in Orillia when he suffered a near-fatal abdominal hemorrhage
that left him in a coma
for nearly two months. He recovered and later returned to the music business with the album Harmony
and an appearance on Canadian Idol
. In 2005
, he made a low-key tour called, with characteristically droll humour, the "Better Late Than Never Tour".
Lightfoot has received 15 Juno Award
s and been nominated for 5 Grammy Award
s. He was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame
in 1986 and the Canadian Country Music Hall Of Fame
in 2001. Lightfoot was inducted into http://www.canadaswalkoffame.com/inductees/98_gordon_lightfoot.xml.htm Canada's Walk of Fame
in 1998. In May 2003
he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada
, the country's highest civilian honour. Lightfoot is also a member of the Order of Ontario
, the highest honour in the Province
"If You Could Read My Mind" is featured in the 1973 motion picture 'Paperback Hero', starring Keir Dullea
and Elizabeth Ashley
"If You Could Read My Mind" is featured in the 2003 motion picture 'Wonderland'.
"Beautiful" found on Lightfoot's 1972 Don Quixote (album)
is featured in the Vincent Gallo
's 2004 motion picture Brown Bunny
starring Vincent Gallo and Chloë Sevigny
. The song is also found on the accompanying soundtrack album.
"If You Could Read My Mind" was once featured on the British
comedy sketch show Trigger Happy TV
starring Dom Joly
where it was used as a backing for Joly pretending to be a street artist sketching fake caricatures of naive tourists. However, according to Dom Joly
's audio commentary on the DVD
release of Trigger Happy TV
, permission to use the track on the DVD release of the show was denied by Gordon's record label. Not wanting to give up, Dom Joly
forwarded a tape of the show to Gordon himself, in the hope that Gordon would veto the record label's decision. Dom Joly
received a response saying that Gordon did not find the show funny, and that permission to use the track was still denied. Because of this, the track, which accompanied the 'Portrait Artist' sketch in the show, was replaced with Placebo - My Sweet Prince.
Lightfoot's song Sundown
was written about his one time girlfriend Cathy Smith
(who had worked for a time as a bus driver on his tours). Her claim to infamy, however, is that she's the same Cathy Smith who shot up John Belushi
when he died from an overdose (a combination of cocaine and heroin known as a speedball
); Smith eventually ended up spending 18 months in prison for manslaughter. http://www.corfid.com/gl/press/press04.htm
In Elvis Presley's cover of Lighfoot's "Early Morning Rain", Elvis changed the lyrics in the 4th verse from "...as cold and drunk as I can
be..." to "...as cold and drunk as I might
be...". Gordon has remarked, while perfoming live, that he is amused at this change, and he now sings the song this way.
* "Alberta Bound"
* "Bitter Green"
* "Canadian Railroad Trilogy
* "Carefree Highway
* "Cotton Jenny
* "Did She Mention My Name"
* "Does Your Mother Know"
* "Don Quixote"
* "Early Morning Rain
* "Ghosts of Cape Horn
* "If You Could Read My Mind
* "I'm Not Supposed To Care"
* "In My Fashion"
* "Me and Bobby McGee
" (first recorded version of Kris Kristofferson
* "Rainy Day People
* "Steel Rail Blues"
* "Song for a Winter's Night
* "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
* "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
* "The Pony Man"
Tribute and covers
* In 1965 Nico
covered "I'm Not Sayin'" which featured a pre-Led Zeppelin Jimmy Page playing 12-string acoustic guitar.
* In 1968, Canadian rockers The Guess Who
wrote a tune about Lightfoot entitled "Lightfoot
", which includes references to Lightfoot's songs.
* Bob Dylan
covered "Early Morning Rain
" on his 1970
album Self Portrait
and has been known to perform "I'm Not Supposed to Care
" in live performances.
- a band featuring Sandy Denny
of Fairport Convention
- covered "The Way I Feel" in 1970.
* In 1971, The Country Gentlemen
covered "Redwood Hill" at a live show in Japan.
* Elvis Presley
also covered "Early Morning Rain" in 1972 on the "ELVIS NOW" LP, also as an additional track on his 1973
NBC *via satellite* TV Special Aloha from Hawaii
, and on his last CBS-TV Special in 1977 "Elvis in Concert".
* Anne Murray
had a big Country hit with her version of "Cotton Jenny
", which went #11 Country and #71 Pop.
* Country artist Glen Campbell
recorded a version of "If You Could Read My Mind
* Australian singer Olivia Newton-John
recorded a version of "If You Could Read My Mind
" on one of her early country-flavored albums.
* The same song was also covered by Barbra Streisand
on her 1971 album Stoney End
* Canadian band The Rheostatics
cover "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" on their 1990 album titled "Melville"
* American band, the Dandy Warhols
, also cover "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald", on their 2004 album "Come On Feel The Dandy Warhols".
* Sarah McLachlan
included "Song for a Winter's Night
" on her 1996 release "Rarities, B-Sides & Other Stuff
* Netherlands-based singer Viola Wills
released a disco version of "If You Could Read My Mind" in 1980, an attempt that was repeated by Amber
(with techno-dance group "Stars on 54
") in 2000.
made a rap version of "Sundown" which is the first track on the 2000 album the parlance of our time
* In 2003, a tribute album Beautiful
was released featuring cover versions of Lightfoot songs by various artists including The Tragically Hip
, Blue Rodeo
, Cowboy Junkies
, Ron Sexsmith
, Jesse Winchester
and Aengus Finnan
* Johnny Cash
covered "If You Could Read My Mind
" on American V: A Hundred Highways
released in 2006.
* Bluegrass guitarist Tony Rice
has covered numerous Lightfoot compositions and has released an album called "Tony Rice Sings Gordon Lightfoot"
* 1966 Lightfoot!
* 1967 The Way I Feel
* 1968 Did She Mention My Name
* 1968 Back Here on Earth
* 1969 Sunday Concert
* 1970 Sit Down Young Stranger
(renamed If You Could Read My Mind
* 1971 Summer Side of Life
* 1972 Don Quixote
* 1972 Old Dan's Records
* 1974 Sundown
* 1975 Cold on the Shoulder
* 1976 Summertime Dream
* 1978 Endless Wire
* 1980 Dream Street Rose
* 1982 Shadows
* 1983 Salute
* 1986 East of Midnight
* 1993 Waiting for You
* 1998 A Painter Passing Through
* 2004 Harmony
* 1969 Early Lightfoot
* 1970 The Best
* 1971 Classic Lightfoot: The Best of Gordon...
* 1974 The Very Best of Gordon Lightfoot
* 1975 Gord's Gold
* 1976 Early Morning Rain
* 1985 Songbook
* 1988 Gord's Gold, Vol. 2
* 1989 The Best of Gordon Lightfoot
* 1992 Original Lightfoot
* 1993 The United Artists Collection
* 1994 Lightfoot!/The Way I Feel
* 1999 Songbook
* 2002 Complete Greatest Hits
* 1975 2 Originals of Gordon Lightfoot
* 1976 Gordon Lightfoot Hudba a Slova
Czech release of Cold On The Shoulderhttp://www.lightfoot.ca/
* 1987 If You Could Read My Mind
* 1994 Sunday Concert Bear Family
* 2002 Live in Reno
* 2003 Sunday Concert Capitol 2003
* "Lightfoot, Gordon." http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=U1ARTU0002075 The Canadian Encyclopedia
. Retrieved Sep. 9, 2004.
*http://www.gg.ca/honours/search-recherche/honours-desc.asp?lang=e&TypeID=orc&id=1014 Order of Canada Citation
*http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=U1SEC837642/ Lightfoot page at Canadian Encyclopedia
*http://archives.cbc.ca/IDD-1-74-743/people/gordon_lightfoot/ CBC Digital Archives: Gordon Lightfoot: Canada's Folk Laureate
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