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Gordon Lightfoot personified Canada. His robust songs about winter nights, morning rain, being bound for Alberta and sailing on Ontario’s Georgian Bay came closest to expressing for many Canadians the essence of life in the Great White North. On the news of his passing, The Globe asked readers to reflect on his musical legacy, sharing their favourite song of his and what it meant to them.

If You Could Read My Mind

If You Could Read My Mind was his finest enduring ballad. I knew him from 1973 in a New Jersey venue and we remained friends for 50 years. He even recorded one of my tunes, but never put it on an album. Sometimes I was the only one that accompanied him backstage. We talked of life, kids music and songwriting. No one will match his songwriting – a legend beyond compare.

– Jack Polidoro

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

I immigrated to Canada from the United Kingdom in 1980 and The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald struck my imagination with its amazing spirit of place. It took me years to get to the north shore of Lake Superior, where I realized Lightfoot’s imagery was spot on. He and Stan Rogers both helped me visualize Canada and get out there and explore.

– Ritchie Leslie


It’s easy to choose a favourite song: Beautiful. My wife and I were fortunate enough to see Gordon Lightfoot at Massey Hall in November 2016. After more than 30 years out of contact, we had recently reunited, having split up when I was in university in 1975. Our lives diverged; we never did get to the Lightfoot concert I promised her. But we eventually found each other again and, on that evening in 2016, Beautiful summed it all up. I got all weepy when he sang it.

– Bob Doran

Sit Down, Young Stranger

My heart is heavy today. I’ll greatly miss this masterful folk singer and remarkable lyricist. Perhaps the best ever in composing and performing folk music and ballads. Favourites? Tough to pick from so many, but Yarmouth Castle, Edmund Fitzgerald, Sit Down Young Stranger, and Sundown come to mind. I was privileged to see him live three times. Twice in Washington, D.C., and once in Toronto. We had tickets for his planned concert in Phoenix in April, and will always regret not getting to see him a fourth time. This man was (and is) a national treasure of Canada, and this Yank sends his deepest condolences to his Canadian fans and fellow citizens, after this tragic loss.

– Mark Heath

Summer Side of Life

When I hear Summer Side of Life I’m whisked back in time to my small town on the Prairies, where it’s the mid-1970s again and in midsummer I’m surrounded by those fields of green of Gordon’s lyrics. It isn’t easy to choose one of his songs as a favourite. This incredibly talented man’s music is the connective tissue between so many places, people and times of my life. Thank you and rest well, Mr. Lightfoot.

– Lorraine Stevenson

Did She Mention My Name

We were living in California and I heard Gordon Lightwood on the radio. The song was Did She Mention My Name and the line that made me so homesick was ”is the ice still on the river.” I was homesick for Canada and winter and my hometown of Capreol [Ontario], where I had spent my childhood living by the Vermilion River.

– Trish Johnson

Black Day in July

Lightfoot is always symbolic of my brother. Back in the sixties my brother received his first guitar as a gift from our dad. Now, Dad was not always the most caring person, but he did have a natural musical ability which he passed on to both sons – to a lesser degree in me. However, my brother took to the six-string acoustic instrument immediately, and his choice of artists to learn was Gordon Lightfoot. The first songs my brother played were original classics including Black Day in July and Canadian Railroad Trilogy. I remembered being amazed that he could play so well and emulate Lightfoot’s chords and riffs. I never was able to emulate that ability but soon had every album produced by Lightfoot and passed on that appreciation to many others. I saw early Lightfoot perform in Toronto and Montreal as well as later in his career in Victoria. My brother recently passed away but he never stopped learning music. I barely got beyond the F chord of House of the Rising Sun. Perhaps a little envious, but always in awe. My brother and I drifted apart in later years, but his legacy of music that he instilled in me is a memory I will always cherish. The passing of Gordon Lightfoot stirs these memories and hearing his music brings back those days when my brother first picked up a guitar. His music created an intertwined connection in my life and I cannot think about Lightfoot without remembering my brother.

– Scott Sedman

Go-Go Round

In 1967 while working in St. John’s, Newfoundland, I had just received my first overtime cheque and I walked into a music store and bought my first guitar along with a Gordon Lightfoot songbook. One song that was popular at the time was Go-Go Round. I learned every song from that songbook. Loved his music.

– Tony Melanson

The Pony Man

What an impossible task. Several of my prized favourites come from Sit Down Young Stranger (the title track is itself a profound song). Nevertheless, I pick The Pony Man. I loved drifting off to sleep to this magical song at the end of listening to the entire album. It was my bedtime ritual for many years in the 1970s, until my late teens, after my dad gave me the tape. The song sparked a whole dreamscape in my mind as I listened. Gordon’s soft voice was enchanting and transported me to a mystical place. Even better, years later, I was thrilled to sing my three children to sleep with his song. I hope I am lucky enough to sing it to grandchildren one day. I never tire of it – or of any other Lightfoot song.

– Maribeth Adams


Sitting on the shore at sunset on the Leslie Spit [in Toronto], stoking a fire and looking out over the lake when Sundown played on our speaker, as if chosen from above. From the first Western-tinged chords you can feel the intoxicating wave of music wash over you, and it makes you want lie on the ground, let the dirt and sand get in your hair, and be one with the waves. No one wrote words and music that made you feel more alive in this landscape then him. RIP to a Canadian king.

– Aaron Ries

Rainy Day People

I saw Gordon Lightfoot twice. Once in the mid-seventies at Massey Hall, and once in the 1990s in Halifax. The 1970s concert was memorable as he was trying to play some new songs and the crowd kept shouting out for his oldies. At one point someone called for Rainy Day People. He replied “I hate that song” and tried playing his new stuff. Someone called for it again so he played it changing the words to “Rainy Day Pimples”. The ironic part was that the new songs he was trying out included The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald from the Summertime Dream album that would go on to be one of his bestsellers. Nobody wanted to hear them. I worked the summer of 1976 at the salt mine in Goderich, Ontario, and watched those massive lakers as they came, loaded 35,000 tons of salt and left. The thought of what it must have been like on board as one of them foundered has stayed with me ever since.

– David Ross

These responses have been edited and condensed.

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