So, here's what I just posted on FB:
It's a sunny evening as I type this in my city. The Lake has been a a brilliant blue almost all day. The waves have subsided as the wind has died down but looking at Lake Superior every day, I think of them...
Those 29 souls that perished when The Edmund Fitzgerald sank in November of 1975.
Gordon Lightfoot gave a voice to their legacy and around The Great Lakes, he will be lionized for that.
The Fitz song was the first one I heard by Gordon Lightfoot but there were so many more to come. Radio hits like "Sundown" and "Rainy Day People" and even a sllightly obscure 80's hit called "Anything For Love"...
Yet, as my Aunt was the one who introduced me to Gord's music, and did so often, she explored the albums that made the man,
I recall in the early 80's, I became obsessed with two songs for reasons that are too complex to explain here but both gave voice to my yearning to be anywhere except where I was at that time. The first being "Angel From Montgomery" a John Prine song that John Denver covered. ( I played the JD one to death). The other was "Carefree Highway" by Gordon Lightfoot.. I recall saving up my money in high school and buying Gord's Gold so I could listen to it. I did but there was a whole lot more on that collection..."Don Quixote"..."Song For a Winter's Night" and "Circle of Steel" along with the magnum opus "Canadian Railroad Trilogy"...
All of these songs were repeats for me. Gordon managed to capture the spirit of nature, of people and the word we lived in. His imagery and storytelling took me to places outside of my Fort Myers , FL bedroom.
My Aunt Betsy loved listening to Gordon. I recall about 20 years ago I found a rather cheap collection of his music at Barnes and Noble. I bought it for myself and then went back the next day to buy her a copy. It was about 11 dollars and was two CD's of Gordon's first couple of albums. It was called "The United Artists Collection. Again, I listened to "Oh Linda"..."Go, Go Round" and "Way I Feel" (both versions) on repeat.
Betsy fell in love with the experimental version of "Way I Feel" which was out of the norm for her but she couldn't help it as it was something that spoke to her.
In the early part of 2006, she bought two tickets for us to see Gordon at the DECC in Duluth. About a week before, she realized she wasn't well enough to travel so she emailed the tickets to me and my friend Seann and I saw him that night. We also tried to meet up with friends of an internet friend beforehand but that went about as awkward as you'd expect.
Still, we saw Gordon with his band he delivered all of his hits. When he did "Sundown", I was thrilled as I thought of how often Betsy and I had sung that in the car together. When he delivered a fantastic rendition of The Fitz song, the whole place erupted into cheers. To give you an idea of how much of an impact that song has on the area, every fall on the shipwreck's anniversary, they have a mini-convention about it called "Gales of November".
As the years would go by, I would still listen to Gordon Lightfoot's music on occassion. When my Aunt passed away, his music was prominent at her funeral reception. I didn't really get back into as much untill I started going to the Kingston Trio Fantasy Camp. I've written about it before but it really enhanced all the music I love.
One of my best memories involves a Gordon Lightfoot tune. It was the last night of my first Camp. I was sitting on the patio in the Arizona Heat at about 3:30am and the Supermoon was shining brightly overhead. Robert Blackstad was singing "Canadian Railroad Trilogy" in such a flawless manner that for a few moments on that hot patio, I felt a chill of Canadian air that night.
Camp would serve up more Gordon Lightfoot, whether it was The Folk Legacy Trio's "For Lovin' Me" or Charlie Woodward's amazing "Last Time I Saw Her Face" to Macdougal Street West's Peter Paul and Mary tribute show featuring Gordon Lightfoot songs, his music was all over the place and reverently discussed.
I can imagine how Camp will be this year. One silent gift that Lightfoot's songs has given me is the memory of the people connected to the songs I know. Whether it's my friend and I singing along to the Fitzgerald song at that concert or seeing my Aunt sing at the top of her lungs to "Way That I Feel" or seeing the faces of friends from Camp everytime one of his songs pops up on my Spotify account, it meand the world to me. His gift is memories and after the year I've had, I need all the reminders of all my friends as often as I can.
It's hard to think of Gordon Lightfoot as gone but his legend will live on from the Chippewa on down.......
I'l close with one of my favorites...
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