Gordon Lightfoot - RIP

Paddled around Lake Superior a few times (many years ago).
Canadian Railroad Trilogy’ pops into my mind every now and then.
Don’t remember the bay, but there was a cliff with a railroad snaking it’s way around the bay, camped below, hearing the occasional train go by.


Yes. Will miss his sound.



Not to dwell on the song he is most likely known for, as he was a gifted musician but, the one that deeply effected me.

Several years ago when I was done after a few days at a racetrack in southern Michigan I thought I’d drive around the state for a couple days. I ended up at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum where I heard they had the bell from the Edmund Fitzgerald. Nice museum at Whitefish Point, they play “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” on a nonstop loop. I walked the museum, viewed the exhibits and back to the entrance not having seen the bell. For some reason, I stopped and turned around- it’s actually the first thing you see entering but I managed to walk right by it.

The haunting song playing, the ship’s bell right there, you’re at Whitefish Point. If that doesn’t put a lump in your throat, you aren’t human.


So many great tunes, and with thoughtful lyrics too. So very rare these days.
“… with an aching in my heart, and my pockets full of sand …”


Gordon Lightfoot’s Canary Yellow Canoe


Another hero from my youth is gone. When I was about 13 and learning to play fingerstyle guitar, my guitar teacher gave me a Gordon Lightfoot songbook and told me to go learn all his songs if you want to learn to play well. He wrote a very large number of songs that were made famous by other performers, and was well loved in Canada and Michigan where I have spent a good amount of time. Last time I saw a video of him, he looked very old and frail, quite a shock. Here is one of my favorites (notice the audience, how different things were before cell phones.)


He was a great canoeist besides being a great Canadian singer.
Right there with Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Ian Tyson.


… and Bryan Adams, Leonard Cohen, Randy Bachman, Anne Murray, Bruce Cockburn, Stompin’ Tom Connors, and on and on and on…


Ueah, dear Gordon.

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Gordon Lightfoot suffered a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm in 2002, a condition which is fatal more often than not. He was in a coma for a month and a half after an emergent surgical repair and required prolonged mechanical ventilation for which he underwent a tracheotomy. Needless to say, a tracheotomy is not so great for the vocal cords.

Gordon survived after multiple additional abdominal operations. I had seen him perform as a student at the University of Illinois, Champaign/Urbana at the Assembly Hall. He gave a great concert at that time, the early 1970s. I saw him perform again in Evansville, Indiana a few years back. After his prolonged ordeal, he was thin to the point of being cadaveric. Although he could still definitely carry a tune, the former timbre and projection of his voice was gone. I give him credit for continuing to tour and perform after a near death experience.


Another legend gone…

By coincidence, I was listening to his songs both times I drove to go paddling this spring. It’s always hard to think of performers as old, let alone dead, so I guess they really are immortalized by their work.

For those who love Gordon Lightfoot’s voice, listen to Jack Gladstone, from just south of the “other border.” In the following story, he credits Gordon as having been a pivotal influence.


RIP Gordon

Those of us that grew up in the 60-70s he was a big part of life at that time and a great star. I was at a party not long ago and the people there ranged in age between 25-40 and the topic was music and playing around seeing if Alexa could play some favorite songs we haven’t heard in a while. To be honest most of the songs others were suggesting I didn’t know the name of but in hearing them I remembered hearing them before. When it became my turn I said play something by Gordon Lightfoot. They all laughed and said who? I said play The Edmund Fitzgerald you will know that one. We played it and not a single person there had ever heard it, and they all liked it and said did he have other hits.

I know there was great music from my parents generation 30s and 40s that I’m not up on as much as I could be.

It just showed me how our culture keeps changing and how little of it is truly captured in the way we who lived it remember it. I guess I did my part helping introduce Gordon to a newer generation.


I came to appreciate GL’s work while living in Ontario (on the Niagara peninsula between Lakes Erie and Ontario) in the early 80’s. He will be sorely missed but always remembered.
He is wild but he is mellow
He is strong but he is weak
He is cruel but he is gentle
He is wise but he is meek


Some music transends generations. I think he will be remembered a little while still.

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Had to dig back in my paddling library for these. Gordon Lightfoot (RIP, Maestro) on a canoe trip, lining his snagged canoe with pics provided by guide Cliff Jacobson (another legend):


That is also a favourite of mine. Gives me chills.

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Edmund Fitzgerald always comes to mind on a rough paddles occasionally. Another great talent finally resting❤️

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