Gordon Lightfoot’s Top 5 Songs: Remembering The Late Singer’s Legacy

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Singer Songwriter, Gordon Lightfoot
Singer Songwriter, Gordon Lightfoot (Credits: BillBoard)

Canadian singer and guitarist Gordon Meredith Lightfoot Jr. was a beloved musician known most for his folk-rock and country music style. Born on November 17th, 1938, Gordon managed to enter the music industry early on in his life and also heavily impacted the genres of music during the 1960s and 1970s period. 

Born to a family in Ontario, Lightfoot’s mother was able to recognize his musical genius very early on. She was the one who pushed him to learn music as a child, also getting him to join the choir at St. Paul’s United Church in his town. Lightfoot has thanked his then-choirmaster many times for helping him learn how to sing with emotion in his singing voice.

He pursued music at all educational levels and also taught himself how to play instruments like percussion, guitar, and drums. For a long time, Lightfoot was known as a great songwriter who wrote songs for artists like Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Marty Robbins, Leroy Van Dyke, and so many more. It was only a bit later that people found comfort and familiarity in his singing that his songs started to resonate with the people.

He is considered to be Canada’s greatest-ever singer-songwriter, capable of writing songs that remain evergreen and valid even in the present times. The singer wrote songs that showed so many ranges and potential and covered so many different topics, like “Ode to Big Blue,” a song about the mass killings of whales that was so prominent at the time, and “Protocol,” a song that talks about the inherent pointlessness of all wars, “Beautiful” mentions the beauty of the mundane things about falling in love.

Young Gordon Lightfoot
Young Gordon Lightfoot (Credits: NPR)

While Gordon Lightfoot wrote and sang songs that remain a hit among fans and listeners, the artist, unfortunately, passed away on May 1st, 2023, due to natural causes at the age of eighty-four years. As heartbreaking as his death is, Lighfoot’s art will keep him alive for a long time, making him immortal for those who love his songs.

As a way of respecting and remembering Gordon Lightfoot’s career, here are his top five most beloved songs, according to fans.

Gordon Lightfoot’s Top 5 Songs:

Many established artists like Bob Dylan have complimented Lightfoot’s songwriting abilities calling it a rare talent that not many possess. He has worked with such a wide range of artists from such different genres it actually makes you question his limits and boundaries. Lightfoot has also been appreciated for his heavy-sounding baritone voice that manages to make any song sound so ridiculously romantic.

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Though his voice was a comfort to millions around the globe, he remained extremely professional during his recording sessions. His ability to get the song right on his first try and to maneuver around the entire song-making process so easily has shocked many. So here are his top 5 most loved songs to remember Lightfoot’s sixty-plus years in the industry:

1. Early Morning Rain (1966)

Released with Lightfoot’s first-ever album called “Lightfoot!” the song touched the hearts of many with its theme of longing for home. The song is so full of regret about leaving one’s home, and it talks about the singer being in a drunken state, miserably missing his home, all the while being jealous of the plane flying over in the direction of his hometown for it got to be close to his home and all the singer could do was suffer from the loneliness that comes with being away from home and carry on with his life.

Gordon Lightfoot around the time of his debut
Gordon Lightfoot around the time of his debut (Credits: Billboard)

Lightfoot has done such a great job bringing the song alive with his sorrowful high notes that tug at the listener’s heart. While listening to the song, one may think that Lightfoot must have been far from his actual home, but that is not the case, though he definitely does a very convincing job at singing with the perfect emotions for the song.

2. Canadian Railroad Trilogy (1967)

This song came to be when Gordon was hired by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to celebrate the end of the construction of the railroad that would connect the entirety of Canada. Lightfoot came up with this song after taking inspiration from another song called the “Civil War Trilogy” by Bob Gibson and Bob Camp. 

The proud Canadian singer-songwriter took this opportunity to express his country’s beauty with words just as beautiful as the country itself. The song feels like his own love confession to his country as it perfectly captures the beauty and greatness of Canada while also exploring its history and culture. The song was a hit among his Canadian fans. Obviously, it resonated with him the most. 

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This song actually helped Lightfoot experiment with different musical instruments and sounds, and if heard closely, one can hear the sound of instruments that resemble the natural sounds of a railway track, along with the sounds of the harmonica and other string instruments very. 

3. If You Could Read My Mind (1970)

The song “If You Could Read My Mind” is a very significant song for Lightfoot because it helped him break through into the US music market and business and also put the spotlight on him. This is dearly loved by American fans, who got around to appreciating his music a bit late. With this song, Lightfoot tried to push his limits and test his creative abilities. It was the very first time that he explored a genre any other than folk music, and though it could have all gone wrong, thankfully, it did not.

Gordon Lightfoot before his health complications in 2023
Gordon Lightfoot before his health complications in 2023 (Credits: CTV News).

The song was actually written in memory of the relationship the singer had with his wife before the two got a divorce. It is sung like a love confession to her where it touches on their marriage and how he feels lonely without her. It is a romantic love song for all those who feel like the entire world is against them and their love.

The song is about his divorce and how his wife left him, but it does not try to make her feel bad for it or blame her for it. But, it offers comfort that is mixed so perfectly with Lightfoot’s deep voice. The song is a warm blanket for those who are going through moments of doubt and uncertainty and are left feeling cold and lonely. This is a beautiful song of acknowledgment and acceptance of oneself.

4. Sundown (1974)

This song is also important as it is the only Lightfoot song that reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 music chart. Unlike other songs that offer comfort and warmth, this one feels dark and eerie. The song has a charm that sucks you in and makes you lose yourself. It is said to have been a very personal song for Lightfoot, who scribbled and recorded his then-reckless relationship with a girl named Cathy Smith. 

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Gordon Lightfoot in one of his concerts before his passing
Gordon Lightfoot in one of his concerts before his passing (Credits: NPR)

“Sundown” reeks of jealousy and doubt and all the negative feelings one could feel while in a toxic relationship. Lightfoot mentions what he was going through during that time in the song and says that, at the time, he was probably crossing all boundaries of respect and humanity while struggling to keep a relationship going.

The song covers the dark period of his life, and with the help of Jim Gordon, the drummer for the song, “Sundown” became a completely sensuous and alluring masterpiece that remains relevant now more than ever.

5. The Wreck Of Edmund Fitzgerald (1976)

This six-minute-long song was an unexpected hit for Lightfoot and actually covered the themes of a real-life tragedy, a part of the folk-genre culture to incorporate actual tragedies in their songs in order to keep them alive for many years to come.

The song is about the story of the sinking of a ship named SS Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior. The unfortunate accident took the lives of twenty-nine crew members that were on board, and Lightfoot has tried to immortalize this by using haunting sounds that give off the underwater vibes that get stuck in one’s mind easily.

The song remains alive and timeless even in the present times, not just because of its storytelling but also because of the use of the “ancient” sounding classic sounds that have been used in it. 

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By Tarunjyot Kaur

Tarunjyot Kaur is a content writer at OtakuKart and writes mainly entertainment-related content. she is currently put up in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. She has done her Bachelor's in Psychology. In her free time, she likes to read books, watch movies and play badminton. You can get in touch with me at tarunjyot88@gmail.com.

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