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  • Writer's pictureThe Sound Cafe

Legendary Canadian Folk Singer-Songwriter Gordon Lightfoot Dies At 84



Gordon Lightfoot, the iconic Canadian folk artist, often called Canada’s greatest songwriter and known worldwide as one of the founding fathers of folk-rock, has died at age 84.


The musician recently cancelled all of his 2023 tour dates, citing “health-related issues.”


Gordon Meredith Lightfoot Jr. CC OOnt was a Canadian singer-songwriter and guitarist who achieved international success in folk, folk-rock, and country music. He is credited with helping to define the folk-pop sound of the 1960s and 1970s. He has been referred to as Canada's greatest songwriter and was known internationally as a folk-rock legend.


Lightfoot's biographer Nicholas Jennings said, "His name is synonymous with timeless songs about trains and shipwrecks, rivers and highways, lovers and loneliness."


Lightfoot's songs, including "For Lovin' Me", "Early Morning Rain", "Steel Rail Blues", "Ribbon of Darkness"—a number one hit on the U.S. country chart with Marty Robbins's cover in 1965—and "Black Day in July", about the 1967 Detroit riot, brought him wide recognition in the 1960s. Canadian chart success with his own recordings began in 1962 with the No. 3 hit "(Remember Me) I'm the One", followed by recognition and charting abroad in the 1970s. He topped the US Hot 100 or AC chart with the hits "If You Could Read My Mind" (1970), "Sundown" (1974); "Carefree Highway" (1974), "Rainy Day People" (1975), and "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" (1976), and had many other hits that appeared in the top 40.


Several of Lightfoot's albums achieved gold and multi-platinum status internationally. His songs have been recorded by artists such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams Jr., The Kingston Trio, Jerry Lee Lewis, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, Barbra Streisand, Johnny Mathis, Herb Alpert, Harry Belafonte, Sarah McLachlan, Eric Clapton, John Mellencamp, Peter, Paul and Mary, Ian & Sylvia, Glen Campbell, Tony Rice, The Grateful Dead, Nico, Olivia Newton-John, Gene Clark, Dan Fogelberg, Jimmy Buffett, Paul Weller, and Jim Croce. The Guess Who recorded a song called "Lightfoot" on their 1968 album Wheatfield Soul; the lyrics contain many Lightfoot song titles.


Robbie Robertson of the Band described Lightfoot as "a national treasure". Bob Dylan, also a Lightfoot fan, called him one of his favourite songwriters and said, "I can't think of any Gordon Lightfoot song I don't like. Everytime I hear a song of his, it's like I wish it would last forever.... Lightfoot became a mentor for a long time. I think he probably still is to this day". Lightfoot was a featured musical performer at the opening ceremonies of the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary, Alberta. He received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Trent University in Spring 1979 and was made a Companion of the Order of Canada in May 2003. In November 1997, the Governor General's Performing Arts Award, Canada's highest honour in the performing arts, was bestowed on Lightfoot. On February 6, 2012, Lightfoot was presented with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal by the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. June of that year saw his induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. On June 6, 2015, Lightfoot received an honorary doctorate of music in his hometown of Orillia from Lakehead University.







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