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02 May 2023

Gordon Lightfoot, Songwriting Great, Dies At 84

Gordon Lightfoot
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Gordon Lightfoot, the Canandian singer-songwriter known for hits including If You Could Read My Mind and The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, died on Monday (1 May) in a Toronto hospital. He was 84. Lightfoot died of natural causes, his family said in a statement.

Born on 17 November 1938, in Orillia, Ontario, Lightfoot learned piano as a teen, taught himself drums, and performed at his high school before studying music at Westlake College of Music.

Lightfoot’s recording career began with a trip to Nashville in 1961. After hearing Bob Dylan he became more focused in his songwriting. “It was so basic in its nature,” he once said. “If he could do it, at least we could sit down and write one! It was like an inspiration toward the work ethic, I suppose; get your tail down and get busy. Because he was really putting the stuff out, doing a lot of writing.”

In 1966, he released his first album, Lightfoot!, which included the much-covered (Ian & Sylvia, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan) song, Early Morning Rain.

As the folk music boom came to an end in the late 60s, Lightfoot was already making his transition to pop. In 1971, he made his first appearance on the Billboard chart with If You Could Read My Mind. It reached No 5 and has been covered by artists including Johnny Cash and Viola Wills.

The 70s was the most prolific period of Lightfoot’s career – he released eight studio albums, eight compilations, and had several no. 1 singles. Four albums went Gold or Platinum in the United States during this period, but the only US No 1 album in Billboard’s Top 200 was 1974’s Sundown. Two years later, Lightfoot released his own favourite song: The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald. The song commemorated the sinking of the bulk freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald, which saw 29 casualties.

Lightfoot released his final album, Solo, in 2020 and spent his final years attempting to get back on the road, despite his failing health. Over his career, he received 16 Juno Awards and five Grammy nominations. Additionally, Lightfoot was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame, and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

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