Remembering Gordon Lightfoot

Gordon Lightfoot

November 17, 1938, Orillia – May 1, 2023,Toronto

To say that Lightfoot was a Canadian Icon is understating his impact. He was among the leaders of the Folk scene in the early 60’s and 70’s. There will be many tributes and biographies to read today and in the coming weeks. He will most certainly be celebrated in Canada but many from around the world will remember him fondly for his beautiful songs and distinctive voice. He recorded his fist album in 1964 but it was not released until 1966. The focus of my blog has been cover songs and I have talked about Gordon in a previous post, I will repurpose some of the songs I have talked about. Like Bob Dylan, Lightfoot’s songs were recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary and their cover of a song from his debut album Lightfoot! helped to bring his songs to a wider audience. You may not know this but American Singer/Songwriter legend that has long since passed, Jim Croce had started his career not only wanting to sound like Lightfoot but recorded some songs in that style until he eventually found his own voice. He covered “Steel Rail Blues” on his first album. 
Early Morning Rainwritten by Gordon Lightfoot. As he had a job as a songwriter before he had much success as a singer many may have thought he covered Peter, Paul and Mary (1965) as it was released before his album came out. Other notable versions are; Bob Dylan (1970), Paul Weller (2004), very few female artists did this one but Judy Collins did in 1965 and Julie Felix (1969).

Pavel Bobek from the Czech Republic. Here is an out take from some guy named Elvis.

If You Could Read My Mind” written by Gordon Lightfoot and recorded in 1969 is for me the quintessential Lightfoot song. Covered by Johnny Cash, fellow Canadians; Diana Krall feat. Sarah McLachlan (2015) Wow! And Bailey Pelkman in 2017.
Other versions feature a who’s who of music; Barbra Streisand, Glen Campbell, Andy Williams, Jeannie C. Riley, Liza Minnelli, Don Williams and Neil Young.
So, this next song puzzles me a bit, as it has not been covered often. “Beautiful” was written by Gordon Lightfoot and recorded in 1972.   If you want a wedding or anniversary song look no further than this. Here is a nice rendition from Glenn Willow
Sundown” written by Gordon Lightfoot and released on the album “Gordon Lightfoot” in 1974. It peaked at #1 in Canada and the U.S. in June of 1974 and would be his only US number one hit song. 
The song clearly resonated with a lot of people and while none of his songs enjoyed the chart success of this one he has made a very good living I suspect. He had planned tour dates on his calendar when he passed. He himself had been through a lot of heartbreak and health problems. A true musical living legend. 
“Sundown” was recorded in November of 1973. Toby Keith covered it on the album Bullets in the Gun 2010. This is a live performance. Not an official cover but here is Eric Church in concert March 2017. L’amour c’est commel’été by Nana Mouskouri, 1974. Elwood in 2000 if you are in the mood for something different!
The Summer Side of Life” is from 1971. Blackie And The Rodeo Kings with “Summer Side Of Life” from the  album Beautiful, A Tribute to Gordon Lightfoot 2003 on Borealis Records.
Thank you for the music and may you Rest in Peace, Gordon Lightfoot. 

15 thoughts on “Remembering Gordon Lightfoot

  1. Wonderful tribute post, Randy. Nobody, and I do mean nobody, can beat Lightfoot’s songwriting skills, and he imbues them with his very being when he sings them. I remember hearing Elwood’s cover of sundown way back and when and remember loving it. Also, have you heard Beck’s song, “Loser”? I think it’s a direct ripoff of Sundown. It’s difficult to choose a favorite but I do think most people would not want to do covers of Gordon Lightfoot music as their attempts would only look shabby in comparison.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I haven’t heard loser but I will check it out for sure. I agree with you that Lightfoot is hard to cover. As you pointed out he puts something of himself in the song that can’t be duplicated. I suspect now that he’s gone more will make the attempt. That said PP&M did a superb job.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice post! I’m by no means a Gordon Lightfoot expert but love most of his songs I’ve heard. At least, he lived a relatively long life and performed as recently as last October at age 83. And, as you noted, he had scheduled more dates for this year, but was forced to cancel in early due to health issues. The beauty about music is it’s here to stay, which is really pretty powerful if you think about it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • He has left an amazing legacy in his songs. A remarkably long career. If I could find a way to get the clip on WP I’ll post where John Prine refers to Lightfoot from a 1971 meeting as his songwriting hero. That’s saying something.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh man, that’s bad news to wake up to. May he RIP. A great artist, one of the few who really made me PROUD to be Canadian. So many fine songs, and after watching the ‘If You Could Read My Mind’ movie, a pretty excellent man too I’d say.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Truly a great talent and we should be proud. He had his flaws like us all but at the heart he was a good man. I knew someone when I worked in Toronto that was very close with Gord. I once said I liked his straightforward stand up and let the song do the talking style. She told me he felt that style may have hurt his popularity. Hard to say but certainly his catalog is as impressive as most any singer/songwriter

      Liked by 2 people

      • Like you say, he had his faults, plenty of them actually when he was younger but I was impressed at how he’d grown and admitted his mistakes by the time they made that movie about him. He never changed musically , which might have close to killed his career in the ’80s… but I’m glad he never spiked up his hair, put on a neon pink shirt and came out with a synthesizer instead of his guitar! (And that from a guy who did love new wave music)

        Liked by 1 person

      • You’re bang on there, especially the spiked hair! He was a steadfast man and a straight arrow after as you said admitted his mistakes.


  4. Loving this blog Randy! I seem to have discovered a whole new appreciation for music since reading your blogs. Awesome! 'Early Morning Rain', love the live Reno version from the man himself but I also came across the cover done by Peter, Paul and Mary in 1966 which I also enjoyed.


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