Gordon Lightfoot, the late, legendary Canadian singer and songwriter, is being remembered for his contribution to his country’s folk songbook, and for inspiring generations of musicians and fans.
Lightfoot, who wrote the songs “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” “Sundown” and “If You Could Read My Mind,” and many other across a celebrated, decades long-career, died Monday (May 1) in a Toronto hospital at age 84.
Born in Ontario, Lightfoot’s six-decade career began in the early 1960s on the Toronto folk circuit and went worldwide in the 1970s thanks to a string of influential hits. He scored four top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 in the ’70s, starting with “If You Could Read My Mind,” which peaked at No. 5 in 1971. Next up were “Sundown” — his lone No. 1 — and “Carefree Highway” (No. 10), both from 1974’s Sundown — also his only No. 1 album on the Billboard 200.
During his lifetime, he collected 13 Juno Awards in his native Canada, capped by his induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1986, and in 2012 was elevated into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2012.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau led tributes. “We have lost one of our greatest singer-songwriters,” he states. Lightfoot “captured our country’s spirit in his music – and in doing so, he helped shape Canada’s soundscape. May his music continue to inspire future generations, and may his legacy live on forever. To his family, friends, and many fans across the country and around the world: I’m keeping you in my thoughts at this difficult time.”
As the sad news spread on social media, fans and fellow artists chimed in.
“This one is really hard to write,” reads a statement from countryman Bryan Adams. “Once in a blue moon you get to work and hang out with one of the people you admired when you were growing up. I was lucky enough to say Gordon was my friend and I’m gutted to know he’s gone. The world is a lesser place without him. I know I speak for all Canadians when I say: thank you for the songs Gordon Lightfoot. Bless your sweet songwriting heart, RIP dear friend.”
Brian Wilson, Belinda Carlisle, author Stephen King and many others weighed in on the passing of a great. See the reaction on social media below.
Just hearing the enormously sad news about Gord from over the sea. I didn't know him very well but his music was my guiding light as a songwriter. I never missed a chance to see him at Massey Hall. Colleen & I send our deepest condolences to Kim & his family RS pic.twitter.com/s4YjZ1a7E5— Ron Sexsmith 💙 (@RonSexsmith) May 2, 2023