Gordon Lightfoot’s eightieth birthday is coming up on Saturday November 17th, 2018. He is celebrating it with a sold-out benefit concert in his hometown of Orillia, Ontario.
Lightfoot is tagged most often as a folk singer. However, his diverse catalog covers a variety of sounds. The colour palette of Lightfoot is pasted with shades of folk, country, Canadiana, Americana, rock, slickly-produced pop and other sounds that may not fit into any category. He could be called a “diverse folk icon”. Or simply “Artist”.
An early greatest hits tape stayed in my Dad’s old truck when the eject button stopped working. So there was this tape which kept playing non-stop, ending up getting towed with the truck to the scrapyard. That collection introduced me to music that stays with me. It is attached to some of the best memories of my kid days. Days of hearing my Dad sing and play along to some of this music. A lifelong ongoing journey into work that still stands strong as the day it was recorded.
The words and music of Gordon Lightfoot are synonymous with many subjects. Those subjects reach beyond his story about the most famous shipwreck of the Great Lakes. Beyond the building of the Canadian railroad. His songs are synonymous with emotions. They are gently sung tales of days gone by. Predictions of potential days to come. Communication that leaves listeners wondering about the real meaning behind collections of poetry. He is telling stories that brings audiences to memories left in far corners. In listening to “Let It Ride” from “East of Midnight” (pictured above), a line stood out that lit a fire for me to keep working on self-care.
Better I listen to my heart, I sometimes fail to find,
One sane and simple answer on the bright side of my mind,
Even when I’m sleeping, I can’t seem to unwind,
I just let it ride.
Letting it ride does not mean ignore it. Rather, work with that restlessness. Whatever the cause might be. Let it ride. Figure it out. If you can’t, look for directions and help so you can make the ride of the moment smoother.
Musically, there is something remarkable about listening to the evolution in Gordon Lightfoot’s music. Gord has worked with amazing talent over the decades. As a bass player, I was drawn to the early drummerless trio work where his bassists worked to keep the music glued together. Every single person who picks up an upright bass should learn Bill Lee’s rhythmic workout on the vocal/bass song “Oh, Linda” from the debut album “Lightfoot!” John Stockfish and Richard Haynes are the two bassists most identified with Lightfoot’s music. Haynes, who I consider an influence, remains with him to this day after having auditioned for him fifty years ago in 1968.
Through the decades of recorded music, his albums reflected the time with instrumentation and relevant production. Twenty years ago in 1998, a dance version of “If You Could Read My Mind” recorded for the “54” Soundtrack brought Gord to a new audience. Many youth surprised that the original is a breezy drummerless composition that remains among his most recognized songs.
It is truly a gift when someone can communicate through music and reach them on that personal level. Lightfoot has accomplished that in his remarkable career. His work is artistically rich, robust and reflective.
Canada and the world continue to benefit from the compositional gifts Gordon Lightfoot has given.