Gordon Lightfoot, Canadian singer-songwriter identified for hits reminiscent of “If You May Learn My Thoughts” and “Sunset,” has died


Gordon Lightfoot, the Canadian singer-songwriter whose sleek and literate songwriting made him one of the vital revered folk-rooted musicians to emerge within the Sixties, died on Monday in a Toronto hospital. He was 84.

His publicist, Victoria Lord, confirmed his loss of life to The Instances. A reason for loss of life was not given.

Lightfoot had lately canceled his 2023 tour dates attributable to undisclosed well being points.

Together with Joni Mitchell and Neil Younger, Lightfoot is thought to be one of the vital necessary Canadian pop musicians of the ’60s and ’70s, greatest identified within the States for his mournful hits “If You May Learn My Thoughts,” “Sunset” and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”

The lattermost tune, which reached No. 2 on the Billboard Sizzling 100 in 1976, instructed the true story of an ore freighter that sank in a storm in Lake Superior a yr earlier, claiming the lives of all 29 crew members. It was one in every of many traditionally based mostly Lightfoot compositions, and over the course of 21 albums recorded over 5 many years, he touched typically on the character and other people of his native nation, most notably in “Canadian Railroad Trilogy,” revered by many Canadians as an unofficial nationwide anthem.

Lightfoot was a gifted and prolific author of lots of of songs. Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Johnny Money, Barbra Streisand, Jerry Lee Lewis, Marty Robbins, and Peter, Paul and Mary are among the many artists who recorded Lightfoot compositions.

The Canadian music business handled him as royalty, bestowing him 16 Juno Awards, its equal of the Grammys, and inducting him into the Juno Corridor of Fame, the place Dylan, each a rival and a longtime admirer, made the award presentation. He additionally was elected to the Canadian Nation Music Corridor of Fame in 2001.

Along with writing about “issues to do with the land,” as he as soon as put it, Lightfoot recurrently chronicled the ups and downs of romance within the troubadour custom with a ability that critics and fellow musicians typically ranked with the likes of Dylan and Paul Simon.

“I can’t consider any Gordon Lightfoot tune I don’t like,” Dylan as soon as mentioned. “Each time I hear a tune of his, it’s like I want it might final eternally.”

Robbie Robertson, a fellow Canadian and chief songwriter for The Band, known as Lightfoot “a nationwide treasure.”

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Gordon Lightfoot performs on “The Midnight Particular” within the Seventies.

(Fotos Worldwide/Getty Pictures)

Gordon Meredith Lightfoot Jr. was born Nov. 17, 1938, in Orillia, Ontario, about 80 miles north of Toronto. His mother and father, Gordon and Jessie Vick Lightfoot, ran a dry cleansing enterprise. Regardless of the Indigenous-sounding surname, Lightfoot mentioned he was of Scottish extraction.

His mom seen Gordon buzzing himself to sleep as a toddler, and each mother and father inspired his innate musical expertise, expressed early on when he joined the choir of the United Church in Orillia. He made his first document when he was in fourth grade, a recording of “Irish Lullaby,” which was performed over the college’s public handle system.

He gravitated to the area’s folks and nation music scene as he acquired older, appeared on Canadian tv in expertise contests after which as a performer and, briefly, because the reluctant host of a country-western selection present.

Within the Fifties he moved to Los Angeles to review orchestration on the Westlake School of Fashionable Music in Hollywood, incomes a dwelling on the facet writing promoting jingles and vocal preparations for different singers.

He cited Dylan, Pete Seeger and fellow Canadian folkies Ian & Sylvia as main influences, but in addition mentioned he was a devotee of nation singer Ernest Tubb. By the early Sixties, he’d written dozens of songs, however later mentioned these early songs meant little to him. A turning level got here when he heard Ian & Sylvia sing Merle Travis’ coal-mining tragedy “Darkish as a Dungeon,” of which he later mentioned, “Once I noticed that mixture of folks and nation music, I knew it was what I had been on the lookout for. It was like seeing the sunshine of day.”

As his fame grew, Lightfoot was signed by the identical firm that dealt with Ian & Sylvia and Dylan. He gained publicity in 1962 because the neo-folk growth was blossoming when Peter, Paul and Mary recorded his tune “Early Morning Rain.” It helped set up a preferred theme amongst modern-day troubadours with its story of a lonely and destitute wanderer removed from dwelling “with a greenback in my hand, and an aching in my coronary heart.”

He recorded 5 albums for United Artists Information beginning in 1965. They contained many songs that had been rapidly recorded by different musicians, amongst them “Early Morning Rain,” “Did She Point out My Identify,” “For Lovin’ Me” and “Ribbon of Darkness.”

Whereas the songs by no means reached Billboard’s album charts, they constituted what former Instances pop music critic Robert Hilburn known as “among the greatest music ever made by one of the vital gifted folk-flavored artists of the trendy pop period.”

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Gordon Lightfoot in an undated photograph.

(Charlie Gillett Assortment/Redferns)

It wasn’t till he left United Artists for Warner Bros. Information in 1970 and launched “If You May Learn My Thoughts” that he gained mainstream fame. That tune reintroduced him — or no less than his title — to a brand new technology when a 1998 remix model grew to become a dance membership hit.

Lightfoot’s document was the primary in a string of hits within the ’70s that additionally included “Sunset” (Lightfoot’s solely Billboard Sizzling 100 No. 1), “Carefree Freeway,” “Wet Day Individuals,” “Stunning” and others that grew to become staples of grownup up to date radio. It was additionally within the ‘70s that he was identified with Bell’s palsy, which quickly rendered one facet of his face numb.

The title tune from his 1972 album “Don Quixote” saluted the spirit of optimism and the righting of wrongs in opposition to the percentages that Cervantes’ hero embodied. However it additionally was interpreted as a nod to the position the singer-songwriter had come to play in society.

Standing like a prophet daring

He shouts throughout the ocean to the shore

Until he can shout no extra

Lightfoot continued writing and recording songs in the identical erudite type and mild folk-pop sound, which left him more and more out of contact with the shifting currents of pop music. He by no means charted one other High 10 single after 1976’s “Edmund Fitzgerald,” one in every of many songs he wrote reflecting his lifelong love with boating and the ocean. An novice sailor, Lightfoot made annual canoe journeys for years by means of the Canadian wilderness, together with a 600-mile trek into the Arctic territories in 1978.

He struggled for years with alcohol, and stopped consuming in 1982 after he concluded it had doubtless contributed to 2 failed marriages.

“I wasn’t going to be round very for much longer if I continued,” he instructed The Instances in 1996. “I’m referring to my profession and to my life — each. I began to do among the wiser issues. It’s one thing that I actually don’t like doing in any respect, however I do train. I am going to the health club. That’s what’s retaining me going, in order that’s why I do it.”

However the sober, health-minded Lightfoot appeared to lose a lot of his vitality. He continued to tour recurrently, however performing within the ‘80s and ‘90s he typically appeared skinny and sounded weak in distinction to the strong outdoorsy determine he lower within the ‘60s and ‘70s.

A few of his vitality additionally might have been sapped by authorized wranglings. A person whose method was as low-key as his tastefully laid-back folk-rock songs, Lightfoot shied away from the trimmings of pop-music stardom. Nonetheless, he filed a lawsuit in 1987 claiming that Michael Masser’s hit tune for Whitney Houston, “The Best Love of All,” had plagiarized “If You May Learn My Thoughts.”

He instructed Maclean’s journal on the time, “It actually rubbed me the fallacious method. I don’t need the present-day technology to suppose that I stole my tune from him.” He dropped the swimsuit, saying it was consuming an excessive amount of time and vitality.

He additionally drastically reduce the tempo of recording, from an album yearly or two within the ‘60s, ‘70s and early ‘80s to only one each 4 or 5 years. He launched solely two albums within the ’90s, together with “A Painter Passing By means of” in 1998. He continued to tour into the brand new millennium, his voice slowly regaining its power. In 2019, he was on the highway once more together with his “80 Years Sturdy” tour, and a yr later launched “Solo,” a group of latest songs he recorded with out backing musicians.

In 1997 he obtained the Governor Common’s Arts Award at a proper presentation in Ottawa.

“There’s a certain quantity of soul-searching concerned in accepting this award,” the famously self-effacing musician mentioned. “You replicate over your life’s work and ask your self, `Did I do sufficient to actually deserve this?’ But when I have a look at it by way of the dedication I put into it for the final 35 years, which has been appreciable, I assume I actually do.”

Survivors embrace his third spouse, Kim Hasse, and 6 youngsters.


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