Happy Birthday Gordon Lightfoot
NOVEMBER 17, 2020
Happy Birthday to a man who shaped so many minds through his music.
What makes a song better than a song? Being able to sing along with it. When I grew up my parents were taking me and my sister to Banff National Park in Alberta Canada. The song that I now know as “Up On Cripple Creek” by The Band kept coming on the western Canadian radio stations. I was four years old. There was absolutely no way for me to know the words to this song, but by the end of it I was singing along to this classic with my own words. We all make up words to songs. These words come out of the woodwork and sometimes make the song better than the original. You ever hear that song Lame Duck Arsenal by Good Riddance? Loved it, until I learned what the words were. Tried listening to it a few times since I learned those words almost 20 years ago, but it will never be the same. Sometimes when we make up words to songs they take us somewhere better, but every now and then you have an artist who puts out music that, even though is very “lyric-make-uppable” when you discover the actual words you are taken away by how good the writing and music is.

Let me introduce you to Gordon Lightfoot.

Gordon Lightfoot is the greatest. There it is. I said it. Nothing will ever compare. Gordon Lightfoot was there for me when I was a kid listening to his songs on cassette tapes while things weren’t going so swell at school or catechism, and he was there for me when I got my first car and was driving home late from breaking up with a girlfriend, and he was there for me when my now-wife and I were driving to the lake joking about what we thought his lyrics were to his song Carefree Highway. Gordon Lightfoot writes the best songs. You are welcome to disagree: everybody needs to be wrong sometimes to gain perspective haha.

There are thousands of pieces of press on the guy, and I’m not going to bore you with some other piece telling you about his blah blah blah and how many who-cares he’s won. I’m going to talk about my three favourite songs, because they were the most important to me of his extensive and amazing catalogue.

1. If You Could Read My Mind.

This song reminds me of laying stomach down on my childhood bedroom floor. My mother would be listening to Stuart McLean on the radio across the house, and I’d be working on some homework from one of my idiot teachers. Yeah, most school teachers aren’t your friends - grow up. I digress. SO ANYWAYS, I was too busy listening to a real teacher in my speakers by the name of Mr. Lightfoot. I really do think this song was responsible for the first deep emotion I felt from a piece of art, and I was 6. I remember this vividly. The story this song conveys is incredible. If you haven’t lived this song by the age 30 a few times, you haven’t lived at all. The summation Lightfoot makes about love and love-lost is perfect. Beyond the message of the words, the amazing guitar work panned hard to one side, not to mention the wonderful and challenging chord progression… shoot. You should go listen to this song right now.

2. Sundown

I don’t know what it is about this song, but it is great. I don’t know if its the mix, the fact that you’ve got these sleazy acoustic guitar riffs in my left ear that perfectly accompany the sleazy imagery brought forward by Gordon, but this song makes me feel it. Then that beautiful clean guitar solo swathed in reverb that hits in the right ear around the two-minute mark. Dang. It’s hard to write about this music when I’m listening to it haha. Gives me the chills. Go turn this tune on!

3. Carefree Highway

I can never get over the tone of Gordon Lightfoot’s voice. It’s so great. This song is my top Gordon Lightfoot song. I love the mix: how the bass pokes through on certain notes with a great tone, the way the acoustics dance rhythmically on top of the drumbeat, and not to mention the way the chorus just kicks in overlapping the resolve. This song is musical perfection to me, and I think once I’m done this writeup I’m going to grab one of my guitars and learn it.

Oh what I didn’t talk about The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald? Good tune, but not my top three big whoop wanna fight about it? Gordon Lightfoot has so many great records that I hope a few of you readers decide to dig him up on streaming today, and even order some vinyl or albums for your collection.

Along the road of your life you can forget about things like people, music, lessons, loves… but if you’re lucky enough to have the good ones reenter your life, and despite all the pain and panic you’ve felt remember a bit of what you once were, you can call yourself truly blessed. Thank you Mr. Gordon Lightfoot for putting this music out, all of it, and thank the Gods that this music found its way back into my life. Happy 82nd Birthday Gordon Lightfoot.

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