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Gordon Lightfoot

One of the leading singer/songwriters of the 1960s and '70s, Gordon Lightfoot was Canada's most successful contemporary folk artist, establishing himself as an important songwriter in the mid-'60s and going on to become a major international recording star in the following decade. Lightfoot's songs are literate but down to earth, and deal with personal matters as well as global issues in a manner that's poetic yet accessible, and his rich, strong voice is a superb vehicle for his material, though his songs are versatile enough that many artists have enjoyed success with his tunes.

Lightfoot was born in Orilla, Ontario on November 17, 1938. His mother had an interest in music and recognized her son's talent at an early age; he was singing in church at the age of five, and came in second in a local talent competition when he was ten. At 12, Lightfoot began studying piano and voice, learning the rudiments of both pop and classical styles, and after winning a Toronto Kiwanis Festival music contest in 1951, he performed as part of a special concert at Toronto's Massey Hall (widely regarded as Canada's equivalent to New York's Carnegie Hall in terms of prestige). After Lightfoot's voice changed, he taught himself to play guitar and began performing with a folk group called the Teen Timers, and also took up drumming and singing with a barbershop quartet. After graduating from high school, he moved to California to study orchestration and jazz composition at the Westlake College of Music. While Lightfoot found work singing on demo recordings and commercial jingles in Hollywood, he didn't care for life in California, and returned to Toronto to focus his efforts on folk and country music. In 1960, he became a member of the Swinging Eight, the in-house vocal group on the popular Canadian television series Country Hoedown, a position he held for two years, and formed a duo with fellow singer Terry Whalen called the Two Tones. While the Two Tones were popular enough to play at Canada's celebrated Mariposa Folk Festival and release an album in 1962, the duo was short-lived, and Lightfoot gave Europe a try in 1963, spending some time in Great Britain and hosting an eight week BBC-TV series, The Country & Western Show. By this time, Lightfoot had begun playing occasional solo dates, and had a regional hit in Canada with the single "Remember Me (I'm the One)," a moody pop ballad.

In 1963, Lightfoot discovered the work of Bob Dylan and began approaching his songwriting in a new and more personal style. Ian & Sylvia Tyson, the popular Canadian folk duo, heard Lightfoot performing some of his new material at a club in Toronto, and were impressed enough that they added some of his songs to their repertoire. Ian & Sylvia also brought Lightfoot's songs to the attention of their manager, Albert Grossman, who signed Lightfoot to a management contract. A number of major artists began recording Lightfoot's material, most notably Peter, Paul & Mary (who enjoyed hits with "Early Morning Rain" and "For Lovin' Me") and Marty Robbins (he topped the country charts with "Ribbon of Darkness"). In 1966, Lightfoot signed a recording contract with United Artists Records, and his first solo album, simply called Lightfoot!, earned favorable reviews and was a modest commercial success. Between 1967 and 1969, Lightfoot would record three more studio albums and a live LP for United Artists, and he became a major star in his native Canada, where his albums often spun off hit singles, and he began headlining annually at Massey Hall to sold-out crowds. But in the United States, his songs were best known in recordings by others.

In 1970, after Lightfoot's contract with United Artists ran out, he broke ties with Grossman and signed a new record deal with the Reprise label. Lightfoot's first album for Reprise, Sit Down Young Stranger, boasted a more polished and sophisticated production than his UA material, and it spawned a long-overdue U.S. hit, "If You Could Read My Mind." The single rose to the Top Five of the pop charts, and after the album was retitled If You Could Read My Mind, it reached the Top Ten. While Lightfoot had finally achieved international success, he continued to live and base his operations in Canada, and his next album, 1971's Summer Side of Life, featured several tunes focused on life in his homeland. In 1972, Lightfoot released two albums, Don Quixote and Old Dan's Records, but he was forced to cut back on his touring commitments after he was diagnosed with Bell's Palsy. In 1974, he returned with the album Sundown, which included the title tune and "Carefree Highway," both of which became major hit singles, and his next two albums would also feature pop hits -- Summertime Dream included the modern-day folk narrative "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," and Cold on the Shoulder included "Rainy Day People." Lightfoot's United Artists material had been reissued on a regular basis since "If You Could Read My Mind" became a hit, but he'd become disenchanted with the production and performances on his early albums, and the 1975 collection Gord's Gold featured new recordings of ten songs from his days at UA as well as 12 more recent hits. From 1978 onward, Lightfoot's presence on the singles charts began to fade, and while he continued to record and tour regularly, his stardom in the United States declined, though his annual run of shows at Massey Hall confirmed he still had a large and loyal audience at home. Lightfoot also began devoting more time to benefit shows for various charitable concerns, including world hunger and the environment, and he dabbled in acting, starring in the 1982 films Harry Tracy and Desperado, and playing a country singer on the short-lived American television series Hotel in 1988. In 1986, he was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

Lightfoot began experiencing a creative revival in the '90s, recording two of his best-reviewed albums in decades, 1993's Waiting for You and 1998's A Painter Passing Through, but his career nearly came to a halt in early 2002 when he suffered an abdominal aortic aneurysm; he was in a coma for six weeks, and had a three-month stay in the hospital. He survived the illness, and in 2003, he was named a Companion of the Order of Canada, the highest honor the nation bestows on civilians. Early 2004 saw the release of Harmony, an album Lightfoot began working on before he fell ill; by the end of the year, he was back on the road. Lightfoot experienced another health scare in the fall of 2006, when he suffered a minor stroke that cost him some mobility in his right hand, but within six months he was able to play guitar again, and continued to perform on a regular basis. In February 2010, word spread on the Internet that Lightfoot had died, and many Canadian news organizations picked up the story. However, the singer himself happened to hear a news report about it while driving home from a dental appointment, and displaying an admirable sense of humor, contacted a Winnipeg radio station to confirm he was still alive despite reports to the contrary. In 2012, Lightfoot released All Live, a collection of recordings from his many appearances at Massey Hall; it was only his second live album in a career lasting over 40 years. ~ Mark Deming
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: All Live

1. 14 Karat Gold (Live)

2. If You Could Read My Mind (Live)

3. Fine As Fine Can Be (Live)

4. Baby Step Back (Live)

5. Early Morning Rain (Live)

6. Restless (Live)

7. A Painter Passing Through (Live)

8. Rainy Day People (Live)

9. Ringneck Loon (Live)

10. Shadows (Live)

11. Sundown (Live)

12. Carefree Highway (Live)

13. Christian Island (Live)

14. The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald (Live)

15. Canadian Railroad Trilogy (Live)

16. Let It Ride (Live)

17. Blackberry Wine (Live)

18. Song For A Winter's Night (Live)

19. Old Dan's Records (Live)

x

Track List: Harmony

1. Harmony

2. River Of Light

3. Flyin' Blind

4. No Mistake About It

5. End Of All Time

6. Shellfish (Live)

7. No Hotel

8. Inspiration Lady

9. Clouds Of Loneliness

10. Couchiching

11. Sometimes I Wish

x

Track List: A Painter Passing Through

1. Drifters

2. My Little Love

3. Ringneck Loon

4. I Used To Be A Country Singer

5. Boathouse

6. Much To My Surprise

7. A Painter Passing Through

8. On Yonge Street

9. Red Velvet

10. Uncle Toad Said

x

Track List: Gordon Lightfoot: The United Artists Collection

Disc 1

1. Rich Man's Spiritual

3. Long River

7. For Lovin' Me

9. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face

11. Changes

13. Early Mornin' Rain

27. Peaceful Waters

29. Walls

31. If You Got It

33. Softly

35. Crossroads

37. A Minor Ballad

39. Go-Go Round

41. Rosanna

43. Home From The Forest

48. Canadian Railroad Trilogy

Disc 2

1. Wherefor & Why

2. The Last Time I Saw Her

3. Black Day In July

4. May I

9. I Want To Hear It From You

10. Something Very Special

12. Did She Mention My Name

13. Long Way Back Home

14. Unsettled Ways

15. Long Thin Dawn

16. Bitter Green

18. Marie Christine

19. Cold Hands From New York

20. Affair On 8th Avenue

21. Don't Beat Me Down

22. The Gypsy

23. If I Could

x

Track List: Songbook

3. For Lovin' Me

4. Early Morning Rain

6. Steel Rail Blues

8. Song For A Winter's Night

9. Canadian Railroad Trilogy

10. Go-Go Round

11. Crossroads

14. The Last Time I Saw Her

15. Did She Mention My Name

16. Pussywillows, Cat-Tails

x

Track List: Dream Street Rose

1. Sea Of Tranquility

2. Ghosts Of Cape Horn

3. Dream Street Rose

4. On The High Seas

5. Whisper My Name

6. If You Need Me

7. Hey You

8. Make Way (For The Lady)

9. Mister Rock Of Ages

10. The Auctioneer

x

Track List: Summertime Dream

1. Race Among The Ruins

2. The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald

3. I'm Not Supposed To Care

4. I'd Do It Again

5. Never Too Close

6. Protocol

7. The House You Live In

8. Summertime Dream

9. Sapnish Moss

10. Too Many Clues In This Room

x

Track List: Gord's Gold

1. I'm Not Sayin'/Ribbon Of Darkness

3. Canadian Railroad Trilogy

4. Softly

5. For Lovin' Me/Did She Mention My Name

6. Steel Rail Blues

7. Wherefore And Why

8. Bitter Green

9. Early Morning Rain

10. Minstrel Of The Dawn

11. Sundown

12. Beautiful

13. Summer Side Of Life

14. Rainy Day People

15. Cotton Jenny

16. Don Quixote

19. If You Could Read My Mind

20. Cold On The Shoulder

21. Carefree Highway

x

Track List: Sundown

1. Somewhere U.S.A.

2. High And Dry

3. Seven Island Suite

4. Circle Of Steel

5. Is There Anyone Home

6. The Watchman's Gone

7. Sundown

8. Carefree Highway

9. The List

10. Too Late For Prayin'

x

Track List: If You Could Read My Mind

1. Minstrel Of The Dawn

2. Me And Bobby McGee

3. Approaching Lavender

4. Saturday Clothes

5. Cobwebs & Dust

6. Poor Little Allison

7. Sit Down Young Stranger

8. If You Could Read My Mind

9. Baby It's Allright

10. Your Love's Return

11. The Pony Man

x

Track List: Salute

1. Salute (A Lot More Livin' To Do)

2. Gotta Get Away

3. Whispers Of The North

4. Someone To Believe In

5. Romance

6. Knotty Pine

7. Biscuit City

8. Without You

9. Tattoo

10. Broken Dreams

x

Track List: Shadows

1. 14 Karat Gold

2. In My Fashion

3. Shadows

4. Blackberry Wine

5. Heaven Help The Devil

6. Thank You For The Promises

7. Baby Step Back

8. All I'm After

9. Triangle

10. I'll Do Anything

11. She's Not The Same

Comments

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21 times for each man that died
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sandymcleod1 7 5
❤❤❤❤❤
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One of my favorite artist of all time. Awesome singer! Awesome music! Brings me back to a wonderful time.
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alexandraabe l l a 1 7
❤❤❤❤❤
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I saw him at Tanglewood circa '76 I think and then a few years back at a College here in Oklahoma City. He still is captivating and now that I've read his Bio, I have even more respect for him.
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gscal2007
He is an amazing singer/songw r i t e r (the finest of our times). I have been a huge fan for over 40 years. While his voice is weaker now than in his youth, he still provides a memorable performance each time. I was fortunate enough to meet him backstage after a concert last year and will always treasure the moment. Thank you for the years of entertainmen t and many fond memories.
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What a strong song guys......
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Always has given me great memories of peace and interest. Love him.
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❤❤❤❤❤
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The guitar solo at the end is one of the best endings I have ever heard.
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just absolutely LOVE his music !! i've grown up listening to him
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Beautiful: I love this song
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His voice is just so sincere coming through in his singing. Not all great songwriters have this so much as he does.
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eddycologne0 2
Best ever
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Awesome band
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If you could read my mind love - what a tale my thoughts would tell. Gordon is a great songwriter
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When my life was young and free!
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cold country born&raised now VEGAS! living .. just got my pool ready today!
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jwatrel
We saw Gordon in Orlando on March 10th, and it was so disappointin g . We are fans of his wonderful songs and had never seen him before. Lower your expectations , because his voice is gone. Very sad.
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dlspear23
Saw him last night in Atlanta; still magical...
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I saw him live in Portland a few years ago and it was sad to see how his voice has suffered from his illnesses, still some of the greatest songs of our times
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❤❤❤❤❤
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Best song he has made!
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definitly one artist i still would love to see live!
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I Love This song. Bj.s voice is completely perfect! ❤️. Beautiful !!'
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Outstanding music! :)
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A Superb song from a truly outstanding Musician. Gordon is one of the best singer/songw r i t e r s on the Planet.
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I love Blacklist!! This was a great song, I remember when it came out!
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I forgot the song until the blacklist put it on lol then I'm like I gotta look that one up on YouTube now it's here on Pandora
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Gordon wrote some weak stuff (why, oh why, is 'Sundown' a hit), and a lot of it is awful MOR, but his best efforts are superb. If someone could just reproduce 'Rainy Day People,' junk the strings, and put in a sparse arrangement that better matches the theme of the song, it would be great. Does anyone know a good cover version?
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Surely sublime .
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I remember driving my green nova.radio playing some carefree highway playing.good times.great memories.:)
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realex music
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frankwiener
It's like hockey. One doesn't have to be Canadian to be a lifelong fan of Gordon Lightfoot. Still love the songs after nearly 50 years! Time flies when you're having fun. Thanks for the music, Gord.
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SHONUFF , JUST CAN'T GO WRONG WITH GORDON LIGHTFOOT RADIO-O-O. THANX PANDORA, & THANX SO MUCH 2 SUCH A TRULY ANOINTED ARTIST. HALLELUJAH !! Happy New Year back, & 2 da rest-o-yall. May there B carefree highways in our nations' futures. By God's grace we go, & Hallelujah that Mr.Lightfoot still t.c.b., after his past health issues. We "take care " by sundown, & don't go creepin round anyones backstairs, we just might B ok.
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Today would have been my late husband's and I 46th Wedding Anniversary. ...♡♡
The Wedding Song played now....
So Beautiful! ♡ ☆ ♡
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who the hell are you leave me alone I do not know no Sara b**ch
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Sundown: What Sara does is her business, stay out of it. She is free, white, and over 18. Leave her alone.
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@frankwiener . Nicely said. Thank you.
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frankwiener
I'm enjoying this much newer version by Gordon of the original, iconic song. There's a kind of maturity to the sound of it, as if his relationship to the song has actually grown with time. I live on the Atlantic in Florida, and whenever the tragic and recent sinking of the El Faro is mentioned, I look out at the sea and think about this very powerful song. No one ever expressed a maritime tragedy better than Gordon Lightfoot.
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I'm enjoying all the music of this station. I wanted to listen to LOBO station and I'm hearing so much more !
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dannynceline
Hi , My station is called Gordon Lightfoot. All my favorite music comes from that point. I've been playing guitar for 55 years, many songs by Gordon. Love this song. Dan
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@rntonp: HAHA. Where did you go? I always post for various holidays. It makes things interesting for me and less boring for others. Keeps me out of trouble. If you happen to see this, please come join me again and let's chat. You can find me on Facebook under Bea Morris-Ysmae l and I will tell you more about my hookas. :-) PEACE MY FRIEND wherever you are.
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A Song for A Winter's Night: THIS is my Winter's night song. I love, love, love this song during Winter.
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Sundown is always nice.
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rntonp
Bea, what's in your Hooka tonight? And yes, the origin of Halloween is strange. As well as the Jack-O-Lante r n origin.
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It initiates the triduum of Allhallowtid e , the time in the year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed believers. Within Allhallowtid e , the traditional focus of All Hallows' Eve revolves around the theme of using humor and ridicule to confront the power of death.
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HALLOWEEN IS ON SATURDAY, OCTOBER 31¥ 
Halloween or Hallowe'en (/ˌhæləˈwiːn , -oʊˈiːn, ˌhɑːl-/ a contraction of All Hallows' Evening), also known as All Halloween, All Hallows' Eve, or All Saints' Eve, is a yearly celebration observed in a number of countries on 31 October, the eve of the Western feast of All Hallows' Day.
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Love this...yes
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I searched for The Canadian Railroad Trilogy, having heard of it's legendary song status. A collection of Gordon Lightfoot's music yielded this three-part tale of transcontine n t a l travail.;)
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