(above: my signed photo of GL)
Well, of course, there are Bruce, Joni, Buffy, and Ian, but–going back to the 1960s– Gordon Lightfoot has had a solo career spanning 7 decades. There are two large audio archives of his consistently strong and memorable material.
For those who remember the early days up to 1970, there’s The Original Lightfoot which covers the early United Artists albums of some 60 songs. There are many highlights including “Canadian Railroad Trilogy”, “Early Mornin’ Rain”, “For Lovin’ Me”, “I’m Not Sayin'”, “Steel Rail Blues”, “Walls”, “Go Go Round”, “Home from the Forest”, “Song for a Winter’s Night”, “Wherefore and Why”, “Black Day in July”, “Pussywillows, Cat-Tails”, “Did She Mention My Name”, “Bitter Green”, “The Circle Is Small”, “Affair on 8th Avenue”, “Softly”. Unfortunately, this set does not include “Spin, Spin, Spin”–one of the catchy first 45s he released which got a lot of Canadian radio play.
Below: Gordon Lightfoot Songbook.
His initial success and strong concerts led to a Warner contract and many more hits such as “If You Could Read My Mind”, “Summer Side of Life”, “Cotton Jenny”, “Don Quixote”, Old Dan’s Records”, “Sundown”, “Carefree Highway”, “Rainy Day People”, “Summertime Dream”, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”, “Dream Street Rose”, “Shadows”, “Baby Step Back”, and “A Painter Passing Through”. (This set includes his best UA work on disc 2 BTW.) There are also plenty of strong album cuts including “Sit Down Young Stranger”, “The Pony Man”, “Alberta Bound”, “In My Fashion”, and “Someone to Believe In” among the 88 songs.
I’d still recommend his U.A. album The Way I Feel, the first Lightfoot LP I bought back in 1967. Every song on that is a winner plus you get the rearranged Indian-sounding version of “The Way I Feel”.
If You Could Read My Mind was his first big American production album in 1971; the songs on it are strong, anchored by his classic breakthrough hit of the same name.
His next consequential album is Sundown–featuring the cool single, and there is not a remotely weak cut on this LP.
I have many Lightfoot memories. I first saw him on Canadian tv on Saturday afternoons, then went to see him in Winnipeg at the old Civic Auditorium circa 1967-8. I have seen him several times. Another memorable concert, again in Winnipeg, at the Centennial Hall, had him stopping his show a couple of times to intermission the crowd, while he stayed inside with the band adjusting the sound–he was not happy with it–a fussy perfectionist.
I’ve seen him here in Edmonton 2-3 times at the Jubilee Auditorium–the last time several years ago when it looked like he might stop touring. The vocal range had narrowed by then and there were songs he no longer did. Since then, he has kept up his annual Massey Hall shows. The poor guy was falsely fake-newsed as dead at one point and when he lost a lot of weight when he gave up alcohol, people thought he might have cancer.
Lightfoot is a Canadian institution who had quite a following in the States, but he chose to stay and live in Canada: a homegrown boy popular with Canadian audiences. A new album has just come out in 2020 and he keeps rolling along in decade 8 of his career; he actually started out on the old CBC Country Hoedown show back in the 50s and his first 45s were actually country in flavor.