Perhaps one of the most melodious singer/songwriters for me has to be Gordon Lightfoot. On a morning drives to school this week, I couldn’t help but be close to overwhelmed by the combination of his words, his voice and his music.
His use of figurative language in combination with strong images is poetry and story. Each song is an adventure that has a strong beginning, a memorable middle, with a definite ending. Many are riveting ballads that repeat the first stanza for the closing sequence of events; but lots more tell a simple narrative, with simplistic language, yet pull a powerful punch.
When I was still living with my mom, and we were getting ready for school in the morning, I would often listen to Gordon Lightfoot as she made my bed and I puttered about my room doing God knows what. One day “Rainy Day People” was playing. It got to the part when he sang:
Rainy day people all know there’s no sorrow they can’t rise above
And my mom said, he doesn’t often write something positive, does he? That is very lovely.
I guess it was, but first I had to get over the surprise that my mom was listening to what I was playing! Lol! I never hear that line but what I think of her and that moment. And it is a beautiful sentiment and it makes me think about who my rainy day people are, who I thought they were, and was mistaken. It makes me also ponder what it takes to be a rainy day person, and if indeed I am one, or could be one, when asked or for that matter, not asked.
My aunt, who is a big Lightfoot fan, loved his song “Mother of a Miner’s Child”. It’s on his Old Dan’s Records album, one I used to borrow from her quite often until I was able to purchase Gord’s Gold, a fabulous compilation of his work. She drew my attention to its soft melody and beauty. And again, my thoughts turn to her and that conversation when I listen to it. There are 2 very poignant lines for me, She will never fail me ’cause I know/I watched her grow, poignant because I think of Pat and his patience with me as I grew from a somewhat spoiled, self-serving individual into a soul who valued his patience and guidance as I navigated this world as a too innocent, too trusting woman.
I have been fortunate to see Gordon Lightfoot in live concert three times. Once as a university student in Halifax. My Auntie from Annapolis Royal treated my friend and I to the show at the Rebecca Cohen. He wore black jeans and a soft white, long-sleeved shirt, and we sat in the balcony enjoying the sights and sounds. I figure he was close to 50 years old at that time, handsome, in fine figure, and strong voice.
Then, approximately 4 years later, I brought my new beau, a fella named Pat, to a Lightfoot concert at the Moncton Coliseum. Well, to be fair, he brought me, but I paid for the tickets. It was a lovely night. I remember how impressed Patrick’s brother Paul was with the idea that a girl would choose a Gordon Lightfoot concert as a date!!
He played his East of Midnight material unplugged, which was, in a word, heavenly, and so much more suitable than it’s original arrangement. “I’ll Tag Along” became Patrick’s favorite, and he told me later how his feelings for me grew so much more after listening to that piece, sitting beside me that night. How does a girl get so lucky to have a guy in her life that would think that, let alone tell her?
The third time I saw him, Pat and I took my Aunt Joan to Halifax, where we met up with her son, my cousin, and his wife, to enjoy a Lightfoot performance at the Halifax Civic Centre, a very large venue. His voice was not very strong, but if you closed your eyes and really listened, you could hear the familiar lilts to his voice, and that was enough.
Incidentally, we had a a fine supper at my cousin’s home and we had a great visit. I am so glad that happened.
My love affair with Lightfoot and his music began (I think) when I started my university career. My father enjoyed his music, especially songs like “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” that had a historical significance. In fact Dad loved this part from the famous ballad:
When suppertime came, the old cook came on deck sayin’Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald (G. Lightfoot)
“Fellas, it’s too rough to feed ya”
At seven PM, a main hatchway caved in, he said
“Fellas, it’s been good to know ya”
CKDH, Amherst, often played this song on weekday mornings, and the image of my father drinking his tea in his rocking chair, always comes to mind when I play this song.
I had a huge crush on Gordon Lightfoot really. Looking back, I am sure it had to do with missing my father, and the grieving process, and wanting to stay connected with his memory any way that I could. I saw Lightfoot as that connection. It’s not that surprising now that I know so much more about the grieving process, my sensitive nature, and the typical characteristics of an introverted personality (which involve celebrity and fictional character adoration).
I have so many defining Lightfoot favorites, that it is hard to narrow it down to just one. I am going to leave you with a playlist, however, should you be interested in having a listen. The one I am going to actually attach to the blog is called “It’s Worth Believin'”. I love the line, when the stars take their ride, because I have done so much communing with the stars and that heavenly space lately.
It also mentions the family cat coming in for the night, and how relatable it that? Just sayin’.
And in closing, I have to mention the voice of this man, Gordon Lightfoot. At times strained, and so very different from his early debut as a folk artist, it’s late 60’s /70’s sound was incredible. Maybe it was the booze and cigarettes, I don’t know, but it was divine.
Enjoy the music. I do and will, along with the memories it invokes within me. I close with a personal playlist of favorites, shortlisted. Please add your own if commenting on Facebook or in the comment section if you follow my blog directly. I would love to know your favorite Lightfoot song.
- Rainy Day People
- Mother of a Miner’s Child
- The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
- Carefree Highway (a challenge to play on guitar according to my brother)
- Now and Then
- Circle Is Small
- If You Need Me
- I’ll Tag Along