Gordon Lightfoot is a prolific Canadian singer/songwriter whose style is often (and probably most accurately) defined as folk (which isn't really country although many people lump the two together). While successful in his own right as a recording artist, Lightfoot's songs have been recorded by the likes of Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan (and recently by a country artist, a dance/pop artist, and a rap artist, to name but a few).
While having over 400 songs to his credit, perhaps his most known and most widely recognised song is 'The Edmund Fitzgerald'1. However, he has had other hits with 'Sundown', 'If You Could Read My Mind', and 'Carefree Highway'.
Gordon Meredith Lightfoot was born on 17 November, 1938, in Orillia, Ontario, Canada. His life and career has been heavily centred on music. From an early age he was involved with amateur shows and music competitions. He made his performing debut at age five and cut his first record with his sister five years later.
In 1954 he made his radio debut with a group called The Teen Timers. In 1955 he wrote his first song 'The Hula Hoop Song'. Although it wasn't accepted by record companies, Lightfoot was encouraged to continue by the executives.
In 1958, he attended a music college in Los Angeles and, although he didn't finish the course, he learned important elements of music theory that have served him well in his later career.
In 1962 he recorded a live album as a duo with Terry Whelan. Their single, 'Remember Me (I'm The One)' reached the top 10 in the Canadian charts. Lightfoot married his first wife, Brita, in 1963. In 1964, already having written 75 songs, Lightfoot became influenced by folk music and performed regularly in the Toronto folk community. He wrote 'Early Morning Rain' and was signed by the Albert Grossman management agency in New York. While under Grossman's management, he recorded five albums for United Artists. Following this, Lightfoot split with Grossman and formed his own company and signed with Warner/Reprise.
Lightfoot toured both Canada and the United States performing, but his hits came mostly in Canada until 'If You Could Read My Mind' was played in the US. This song reached No 5 in 1971 on the US charts while the album went gold and reached No 12. In 1972 Lightfoot was diagnosed with Bell's Palsy and had to take some time off from performing to recover. In 1973, he and Brita were divorced.
In 1974, Lightfoot's album Sundown held the No 1 album position for three weeks. The single, also called 'Sundown' reached No 1 as well.
In 1975, the SS Edmund Fitzgerald sank and Lightfoot wrote his well-known ballad commemorating the men claimed in its sinking. In 1976 that song reached No 2 on the charts. Lightfoot received a Grammy nomination (song of the year) for that song in 1977 and also a nomination for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance3.
In 1980, Lightfoot was declared Canada's male singer of the decade (the 1970s). In 1985, Lightfoot joined in with other Canadian artists to contribute to the Live Aid/Band Aid events, recording 'Tears are Not Enough' for the USA for Africa trust.
In 1988, Lightfoot sang his song, 'Alberta Bound' at the opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta. Throughout 1988 and 1989 Lightfoot, always an outdoorsman, became heavily involved in environmental issues.
During the 1990s, Lightfoot continued to perform and record. In 2002, while performing in his home town of Orillia, Lightfoot became ill (internal bleeding) and was in intensive care for several months. His good physical conditioning allowed him to recover and in 2003 he indicated that he intends to release another album in 2004. In addition, Lightfoot's status in the Order of Canada was elevated to the highest level, Companion.
The interested Researcher is referred to the discography for information on his many recordings. The even more interested reader is referred to the More Information section for, well, more information.
The following is a chronological listing of Lightfoot's original album releases. Note that some significant compilation albums have been included, but a number of alternate releases (both Canadian rereleases and international releases) have not been included.
- 1962 - Two Tones At The Village Corner4
- 1966 - Lightfoot!
- 1967 - The Way I Feel
- 1968 - Did She Mention My Name and Back Here On Earth
- 1969 - Sunday Concert
- 1970 - Sit Down Young Stranger (If You Could Read My Mind) and The Best Of Gordon Lightfoot5
- 1971 - Early Lightfoot6 and Summer Side Of Life
- 1972 - Don Quixote and Old Dan's Records
- 1973 - Sundown
- 1975Cold On The Shoulder and Gord's Gold7
- 1976 - Summertime Dream
- 1978 - Endless Wire
- 1980 - Dream Street Rose
- 1982 - Shadows
- 1983 - Salute
- 1986 - East Of Midnight
- 1987 -
- Over 60 Minutes with... Lightfoot 8
- 1988 - Gord's Gold II9
- 1992 - The Original Lightfoot: The United Artists Years10
- 1993 - Waiting For You
- 1998 - A Painter Passing Through
- 1999 - Songbook11
- 2002 - Complete Greatest Hits
For additional information, in fact just about anything you could possibly want to know, visit the Lightfoot.ca web site.
Another place with more info, and some biographical info is corfid.com.
And if your appetite for information still hasn't been sated, check out GordonLightfoot.com.