Gordon Lightfoot Remembered: Stories & Fond Remembrances
With the passing of Gordon Lightfoot of natural causes at 84, Canada has lost its songwriting compass as many mourn the creator of such memorable - and such Canadian - songs.
By FYI Staff
With the passing of Gordon Lightfoot of natural causes at 84, Canada has lost its songwriting compass as many mourn the creator of such memorable - and such Canadian - songs.
We've gathered a number of tributes as they continue to flow in from musical and industry peers. Godspeed, Mr. Lightfoot!
Neil Young (posted on NeilYoungArchives): “I was saddened when I learned today of his passing. Gordon was a great Canadian artist. A songwriter without parallel, his melodies and words were an inspiration to all writers who listened to his music, as they will continue to be through the ages. There is a unique and wonderful feeling to Gordon’s music. Lightfoot is a Canadian legend. His song just came up today by itself on the Hearse Schedule. PEACE Gordon. Love Neil.”
Bryan Adams (on Twitter): " 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. #gordonlightfoot."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (in an official statement): "I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing yesterday of Gordon Lightfoot, one of Canada's greatest singer-songwriters. Mr. Lightfoot gave us so many special moments over the years. With a career that spanned over half a century, Mr. Lightfoot's music told stories that captured the Canadian spirit, none more so than his iconic Canadian Railroad Trilogy, which will forever be a part of our country's musical heritage.
"I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Lightfoot as a child – he spent the afternoon in the Gatineau Hills with my family, and it is a memory I will always cherish. On behalf of all Canadians, Sophie and I express our deepest sympathies to Gordon's family, friends, and his many, many fans. His legacy will live on in the dynamic Canadian soundscape he helped to shape."
Bruce Good (The Good Brothers - to FYI): "Gord’s songs were the heartbeat of our nation, and his voice was our breath. Rest in peace dear friend."
Ron Sexsmith (to FYI): "Hearing Gord's music in my early 20s as I was just getting started on my own songwriting journey, it pointed me in the direction of what kind of songwriter I would like to be. His music changed my life, and I'm grateful to have lived at the same time as the great man himself. I never missed a Massey Hall show. For me it was the thing I looked most forward to each year, and I know I will greatly miss it going forward.
"When the pandemic started in 2020 every morning I walked the river in Stratford and while listening to his recent album Solo. It's hard to articulate the comfort I felt hearing his voice again but singing new songs. He changed my life"
Tom Cochrane (to David Friend, CP): "Gordon once said to me, ‘You know, trees grow in certain soils, and this soil has been a very powerful soil for me to grow. Why would I leave this country? This is where I bear fruit.'"
Tom Wilson (to FYI): "Gordon Lightfoot has left us, but he lives in our blood. His voice will always raise up our ghosts and reunite us with a tremendous joy we all hold in our hearts but may have forgotten about. Thank you Gordon."
Daniel Lanois (on CBC-TV): "I have got past the sadness and am celebrating the fact that I had a lovely time with Gord at the Harvest Festival near Hamilton a few years back when he stepped in as the headliner, replacing Neil Young. His set had the most beautiful delivery of all those wonderful Canadian tales."
"I wish I had his kind of discipline for the songwriting part of things. A lot happens by proximity. If you hung around Gordon Lightfoot, you became a better songwriter. I see him as one of the great travelling troubadour songwriters."
Murray McLauchlan (on CBC Radio): "He would hear himself regularly referred to as an icon, but I don't think he ever thought of himself that way. In many ways, he was a small-town guy. People connect to different songs based on what is going on in their lives. The Gordon Lightfoot song I most connect with is Early Morning Rain. I was that guy."
Anne Murray (to CP): "His lyrics were easy to wrap your voice around. They were so personal and yet they all had such a universal feel to them and appealed to a lot of people ... anyone would want to sing them."
Greg Keelor (on Facebook): "Gord was one the signposts in my life that kept me headed in the right direction. I remember when I was thirteen listening to Railway Trilogy and being totally transported. The first song I learned on guitar up in the mountains around Lake Louise was 'Beautiful.' In 1984 I was living in NYC playing loud rock'n'roll and then I got a cassette of gords gold, and I bought an acoustic guitar and Jim [Cuddy] and I moved back to Toronto and started Blue Rodeo. Gord was a master of his tempos, his melodies, his phrasing, the arrangements, the guitar playing. He was in a high untouchable place - covered by countless singers and admired by all songwriters. People like Gord never really die; we just don't see them around as much."
Peter Steinmetz (former CARAS President & retired entertainment lawyer - to FYI): "This is a great loss for long-time lovers of Canadian music and poetry from far and wide. Gordie’s reach spanned decades and was global. He was a lion. We were not close personal friends but we “intersected” often during the course of our careers and were well acquainted, always on the best of terms.
"In 1986, while I was still President of CARAS, Gord was that year’s Hall of Fame inductee. Bob Dylan came to town to make the presentation, arrived at the Harbour Castle Convention Centre with two knock out female handlers in skin tight leathers, all a few sheets to the wind, had some difficulty finding his way through the stage curtain (a breathtaking, crowd-pleasing, live TV moment), and paid tribute to Gord for his 'rare' talent.
"But Dylan was no match for Gordon in the eloquence department. Gord’s acceptance speech was candid, personal, detailed and emotional. It resonated deeply with everyone, particularly when he recognized his sister Beverly as having helped him kick the alcohol and get his act together. He was and remained personable, humble, grateful and appreciative of both his artistic and industry colleagues and his fans. I will remember Gordie for the exceptional music and poetry he created, for the struggles he endured and overcame, observed in my case from a distance, and for his warmth, intelligence, good humour, artistic sensitivity, humility, courtesy, and professionalism, observed first hand over the several decades we were acquainted. His music will keep him front of mind for the rest of my years."
Rob Baker (The Tragically Hip - on Facebook): “I’m sitting here listening to Gord’s Gold and thinking of the hundreds and hundreds of times I’ve listened to this, alone, laying in the backseat of my parent's car heading to Georgian Bay, or with everyone on the tour bus rolling across the country. These are some of the finest, most durable songs ever written. To say he was/is a national icon sells him short. He was and always will be a great artist and one of the finest songwriters to ever grace a stage.”
Steven Page (to David Friend, CP): “Even though he did spend time in the United States and made records there, Gordon Lightfoot was still deeply connected to the country, the landscape and the personality of Canada.”
Ed Preston (ex-RCA Canada president to FYI): "My Lightfoot memories go back to the days when Al Mair was promoting Gordon’s Records. It was his first trip to CHML in Hamilton, and since it was 1962 or 1963, I believe it was the Remember Me single they were promoting. As I was the Music Director of a Middle of the Road Music station at that time, there was never any doubt that Gordon’s songs would make our playlists. As Gordon was new to the radio promo game, I do recall that he let Al do most of the talking. However, in the later ’60s, it was Gordon on the phone just to say thanks for the spins.
"Several years later when I was at RCA, The Horseshoe Tavern had a special tribute night to our Ontario Promotion team. George Hamilton the lV was the headliner. George, as you know, was a huge fan and very good friend of Lightfoot. He recorded 17 of Gord’s songs. Album: Lightfoot County.
"As the tribute night continued, Gordon shows up. A big surprise. When the crowd noise settled down, George convinced him to come on stage and sing a few songs. "When he did, his opening comments to the audience went like this… “I just came in to say hello. (long Pause) I had some really good S..t tonight and if you think you’re going hear anything you’ve ever heard before you are out of your F- nnn minds.” Then he turned to me on stage and said: “Preston, get in on those drums!” Which I did, along with Scott Richards on bass and Johnny Murphy on tambourine. It was only a one-nighter, but a night however that has given me bragging rights to say: “I played drums for Gordon Lightfoot.”
"Loved the guy and his gifts to the world. He touched millions."
Jane Harbury (to FYI): “I recall the last time Gordon Lightfoot came to the old Hugh's Room at 2261 Dundas was in late 2019 when another great artist, Tom Rush, was appearing. As always, at Tom's request, we had invited Gordon and Murray McLauchlan and we'd reserved space near the coffee station. Murray had invited another Toronto-based artist, Marc Jordan, to be his "plus one" and they all sat together. Gordon asked if he could introduce Tom and then Tom asked Murray to sing a song.
This was a night to remember - and resulted in Gordon inviting Tom to open two of his Massey Hall re-opening nights the following year, which Tom Rush was thrilled to do.
“These times epitomized the magic of Hugh's Room and the life and great spirit that was Gordon Lightfoot "
Billy Joel (Facebook): "Sad morning over here. Rest easy Gordon Lightfoot. So sad to hear of the death of Gordon Lightfoot. He was a lifelong musical hero of mine. His songs were the heart of Canada. R.I.P.
Terra Lightfoot (on Facebook): "He gave us beautiful words, music and lessons. He was always willing to lend an ear or offer a piece of wisdom. He listened with eyes closed in crowded rooms and I always respected that, the ability to get lost in the music in a sea of people. May his memory and songs live on."
Lori Yates (to FYI): "I sang at Mariposa Folk Festival in 2016 when Gord was given a statue in Tudhope Park, Orillia. He was in the audience watching my performance; hence we were honouring him before the statue was unveiled. It was terrifying knowing he was there plus one of the songs I had chosen was Black Day in July which has 12 verses or something which you don’t want to screw up when Gord is in the audience!"
Steve Poltz (on Facebook): "Gordon Lightfoot was a gift to the world. We were lucky he left us such a treasure trove of beautiful songs. God speed you beautiful troubadour. It’ll be empty this summer when I play Mariposa. Gordon, you’ll be missed. Travel easy. Thank you for your tunes, wisdom, humility and love. See you sometime in the tweener up in the sky.
James Keelaghan (on Facebook): "Like you, I'm thinking about Gordon Lightfoot this morning. Years ago I was asked to be part of the first Lightfoot tribute album, Beautiful. When they asked what song I wanted to sing, I practically shouted Canadian Railroad Trilogy. When I hung up the phone, I asked myself--What have you done? I hadn't played the song in 2 decades at least. I picked up my 12-string, and without a thought, I sang it from beginning to end without reference to the lyrics. That's a great song. And Gordon Lightfoot had a lot of them. Thank you, Sir, for lighting my way, for a greater sense of my country. Safe Home, Gordon."
Bill King (on Facebook): "He wrote the songs that spoke to us. He told our stories. The personal ones. Even in his presence, there was quiet. When we arrived in Canada in 1969, Bob Dylan was the backdrop to our lives. It soon became Lightfoot. Gordon owned the radio waves. He also owned Massey Hall."
James Gordon (on Facebook): "So many of us got into the game because of Gordon Lightfoot. A huge influence, not just musically- he’s why I still often wear a vest on stage! I actually never met him. I shared the backstage area at a festival we were both playing at once but was too shy to introduce myself. Within 10 years of that first sighting… I was making a living in the biz, and at the beginning, I was singing his songs too. 50 years later I’m still at it… and it was inspiring to see that he loved what he did so much that he played right till the end of a remarkable life. RIP GL."
Darcy James Argue (Grammy-nominated composer/bandleader, on Facebook): "Oh man. Gordon Lightfoot was an indelible part of my childhood and one of those artists who only got better and better the more I listened. Farewell to one of THE greatest musical storytellers, period."
Ian Thomas (on Facebook): "Gordon Lightfoot was a musical equivalent to The Group of Seven. Some of his songs were imbued with the conifers, lakes and rock of the Cambrian Shield. It always amazed me that when the Beatles were in full bloom, Canadian teenagers like me were listening to Pussy Willows Cat-Tails, and the Canadian Railroad Trilogy at the same parties. And so, like many Canadians, I sensed our precious piece of this earth that we call Canada in Gord’s songs. I learned to finger-pick from an Ian and Sylvia version of Early Morning Rain. Singing that song took me somewhere higher in the doing of it. The song sailed and at the end touched down gracefully like a “big 707.”
"Gord was so proud he could still travel with a full band into his eighties. Like a pilgrimage, Canadians flocked out for the privilege of hearing Gord play songs from his extensive catalogue that were musical markers in our lives. Didn’t matter that his voice was a wisp of what it was in his prime, it was a privilege as a Canadian to be there. When he performed his songs, he inhabited them. Like many songwriters, I will miss his presence in the shrinking of my generation’s world. I always enjoyed our quirky conversations. He was a one-off. My Canada felt better when Gord was in it."
Steve Kane ( ex-Warner Music Canada president - Facebook): “Hi Steve it’s Gord, Gordon Lightfoot” …that’s how each phone call would start. Usually, it was a call to talk about ‘The Work,’ which is how Gord referred to his songs and records, but sometimes it was just to say hello and chat. I called him a few times during the pandemic lockdown and we would trade tips on how to keep from going stir-crazy.
"My team was incredibly proud that Gordon chose to sign again with Warner Music Canada for his last few records and that he considered Warner his home. My heart and thoughts are with his lovely wife Kim, his children, grandchildren and longtime assistant Anne. So long Mr. Lightfoot."
Lou Pomanti (Facebook:) "In 1986 I had been a session player for 3 years. I got a call to play on the new Gordon Lightfoot record. I found out later that Doug Riley was on the sessions but had quit. They booked me for a couple of weeks, 5 days a week, at double scale, at Eastern Sound on Yorkville Ave ( it's no longer there). Pretty sure it was Barry Keane on drums, Tom Szczesniak on bass, Bob Mann and Mike Francis on guitar, and Mike Hefernan on other keyboards. I played piano and organ on everything I think. They were very structured sessions, with Gord clearly in charge. But they were very different than anything I had done, before or since. First of all, he kept EVERY take.
"We recorded to 2" tape in those days, and they were over $200/reel. I was told there were 120 reels used by the end of the sessions. We all played together live off the floor, with Gord playing along and sometimes singing live. The crazy thing was, we'd play a song all morning (10-1), many, many times. Then after playing it to death, Gord would pronounce "Guys, that was perfect! Let's do it again!" I realized later that Gord was recently sober and that as long as he was working in the studio, he wasn't drinking or even thinking about drinking. So making this record was his rehab, and we were there to help him.
"I was really pleased last year when Gord was asked what his favourite track was that he had recorded during his career. He said 'East of Midnight'. That was the title track of the album we made. Unlike many of his folk peers, he was a schooled musician who could read and write music. He tuned his guitars meticulously and could tell instantly when anything was out of tune. He was a perfectionist, and it showed. RIP Gord. Nice to know you. " #gordonlightfoot
Margaret Konopacki (Facebook): "I have a beautiful Gordon Lightfoot story, which I think is poignant since he passed and it shows the spirit of the man. “If you could read my mind love, what a tale my thoughts could tell…..”
"When John Martin, the founder of MuchMusic, and my first husband, was dying of esophagus cancer and was in palliative care in a Toronto hospital, Gordon arrived with a guitar in one hand and a card in the other. My son David revered his dad and almost never left John’s side during the difficult six months while he was passing. John did not let too many people visit, but when he heard Gordon was there to see him, he let him in. As the story goes, Gordon said 'hello mate - sorry to hear about what you’re going through but I thought I would bring this guitar for David.!'
"This kindness towards my 17-year-old son and John was incredibly heartfelt. It really helped David with his grief to know that this big star cared about his father. Gordon hung out, and I was told they had a wonderful and really fun time. I heard the story many times. Before he left, Gordon gave the guitar to David with a card and told him to read it at home. I still have that card somewhere in my house in Ottawa; left behind by David, cherished and respected; one of David‘s most prized possessions.
"In the note, Gordon wrote that 'this is a secret way to communicate with your father when he passes. Music will transcend, he will hear you, and you can write your music for him in your own words.' When David was in major relapse mode in Preskett, Arizona many years later, the guitar was unfortunately pawned and lost. My son felt so guilty, and we looked for that guitar for years, but it was nowhere to be found. Somewhere out there in Arizona is Gordon’s guitar. Hopefully, it’s being used, and his signature is still inside to tell the tale. I believe they’re all together up there right now feeling and hearing something in a different way! Gordon, you were an original and the kindest of souls!"
Alex Lifeson (Instagram): "A Canadian legend and one of the greatest songwriters of all time has left us. I’ll always remember Gord bringing his daughter Meredith to one of our Toronto shows and sharing a happy pre-show moment together. Safe travels, Gordie, on your Carefree Highway."
Geddy Lee (Instagram): "The first time we met was outside a local award show at a club in Toronto - a legendary poet, a songwriting inspiration - a gem of a man - I loved him. He used to bring his daughter who was a fan, to our shows, and he'd sit with her in the audience getting blasted with volume for three hours - a few months back he phoned me out of the blue, for no other reason than to say he'd just watched one of our concert films and really loved it. Every time I ran into him the first thing he would ask was how many gigs we'd done that year - he'd then proudly counter with the fact that he had played even more! RIP Gord - you are the man - the greatest Canadian."
Randy Bachman (Facebook:) "When we were younger, Burton Cummings and I went to a Gordon Lightfoot concert. We sat there mesmerized the entire time at the way he sang and the stories his lyrics told. It was poetry, folklore, legend and music. Spellbound would be a good way to describe what we felt. Sending love to his family and friends today at his passing. I knew him for a long time, and he was a wonderful person. "A #Canadian #legend. #RIP #SingerSongwriter #GordonLightfoot."
Liona Boyd (in a statement): "I was very sorry to hear of the passing of Gordon Lightfoot. Gordon has been a friend for nearly 50 years and was responsible for giving me one of my biggest breaks early in my career when I opened for him on tour in the 70s. There are so many great stories from that tour and I wrote an entire chapter about him in my first autobiography.
"He certainly influenced my songwriting. My tribute to him in 2017, 'Lightfoot”' with his old friend Rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins, pleased Gord immensely, which warmed my heart. Our last concert together where we shared the bill was in Kemptville six years ago. I spoke to Gordon two months ago and had called his wife Kim out of concern after hearing he had cancelled his concerts. Gordon was a unique and special person as well as being one of the greatest songwriters of all time. RIP Dearest Gordon; thanks for the memories and for helping to launch my career all those years ago."
Ann Kajander (via BC. Fiedler): "Never did I think the world had in store that I would actually come to meet Gordon Lightfoot, have Chinese food in his kitchen, or watch my toddler son and his play backstage in the Green Room at Massey Hall before a show. What I admire most about the legend of Lightfoot was his humility and staunch pride in being a small town Orillia boy. Never an American pop star wannabee, he wrote songs from the heart that touched the Canadian spirit at every level. His poetry in particular stands alone even without the music.
"A story goes that he and Pierre Berton were in an elevator together and Lightfoot complimented Berton on his telling of the railway story in his newest book. “Ah”, Berton is reported to have responded, “but you told it better.”
"At a time when we need Canadian culture more than ever, perhaps a moment of reflection on the wild geese as they fly, the ringneck loon, and how the waves turn the minutes to hours will help us remember. And don’t forget to give the leftover Chinese food to the racoon in the backyard. Let us not let Lightfoot’s music become too silent to be real."
Stephen Fearing (on Facebook): "At last summer’s Mariposa Festival in Orillia, a bunch of us gathered to celebrate Gordon Lightfoot and all of our many connections to him. I was part of The Way We Feel workshop where some of us sang from his huge catalogue with himself in attendance. One by one, after each performance, we would walk over to where he sat and thank him. It was very moving indeed and for me a lightning rod that connected me back to my 14-year-old self sitting in Dublin with an old gut-string guitar and a copy of his “ Greatest Hits”, slowly and painstakingly trying to learn how to get my fingers to cooperate and play those chords…
"His music showed me my future as a songwriter, guitarist and singer. Lightfoot’s music has always been a large part of the very foundation which so many of us built our careers upon, and there have been countless times for me when I was aware of his presence as I wrote another song… he gave us license to be openly and unabashedly 'Canadian' in where we set our songs, in the metaphors and imagery we chose and in the voice we sang those tunes with."
Andrea Ramolo (Facebook:) "Rest in peace kind sir. It was an honour to sing your songs with you. You’re definitely leaving a legacy and a lot of sad people with a lot of memorable music in your wake."
Kevin Hearn (Facebook:) "I’m so sad to hear of Gordon Lightfoot’s passing. Gord, Thank you for so many beautiful songs. Your music always makes me feel the spirit of northern Ontario. You are a songwriting giant. You were always so nice when I had the good fortune of spending some time with you. Say hi to the other Gords from me."
Marc Jordan (Facebook): "With a heavy heart I and the rest of Canada are saying Good Night and Goodbye to the Great Gordon Lightfoot. He was a huge influence on me and countless other artists around the world."
Catherine MacLellan (Facebook): "I'm sad to hear of Gordon Lightfoot's passing - and also so grateful to him for creating so much of the soundscape of Canada's folk music legacy. Thirteen years ago I was given the great honour of sharing a stage with two of my heroes - Gord Downie and Gordon Lightfoot. The Gords. I don't know how I got to do that, but I'll never forget that day. They were both so kind and generous to me. Both of them have been a big influence on how I write. Lightfoot had good advice that day - you gotta give them a toe tapper!"
Tara Slone (Facebook:) "Ron MacLean and I first met Gordon Lightfoot at his Toronto home in 2017. The house in Toronto’s Bridle Path neighbourhood was majestic in size and not overly furnished, save for decades worth of photos and memorabilia. The most notable thing to us was Gord’s old canvas lawn chair which was set up right in front of his front door - the front door, which looked out at the other multimillion-dollar mansions on the street, including Drake’s. During that interview, Gord told us that he and his band rehearsed every single day when they were on tour just so they could get it just right. This band had been together for decades. It was astonishing how much Gord cared about the music and the audience.
"The next time we met was a short time later when he was being honoured in his hometown of Orillia, Ontario. He seemed truly chuffed at the recognition. He was light on his feet and beaming. It was so sweet.
"We lost a giant today. A man whose songs captured the soul of a country and the hearts of so many. Gordon Lightfoot was a Canadian hero, and I am really fucking sad he’s left us. Go with the music, Gord. And please know… you got it just right."
Steve Forbert (Facebook:) "RIP Gordon Lightfoot - He had that honest, plaintive, Canadian quality to his voice. Sundown, If You Could Read My Mind. Both are excellent records—and they were big radio hits. As most everyone knows, he had several others. Of course Early Morning Rain is a classic—in and of itself. "How many people have recorded it? It was always on my short list of songs I wanted to record someday. It became the title song of my 2020 Cover Album. - You can’t hop a jet plane like you can a freight train—so I’d best be on my way, in the early morning rain.”
Rob Stoner (Facebook): "·Gordon Lightfoot was much more than the Canadian Dylan, he was a prolific and unique genius whose timeless songs and beautiful, soulful voice were like no other. We met in 1975 and stayed in touch ever since. I've attended many of his shows, and his consistency never flagged. Dylan was a major fan, and we played his songs in hotel room jams many times. BD and Presley have covered several of them. Richard Thompson cites him as a major influence. Bob has said: “I can't think of any Gordon Lightfoot song I don't like. Everytime I hear a song of his, it's like I wish it would last forever."
Kurt Swinghammer (Facebook): "Lightfoot’s Summer Side of Life was the third or fourth album I ever bought, which meant it was played all the time because there simply weren’t many other options. But it was an inspiration as I had just got a “Spanish” guitar and was struggling to teach myself how to play. With the sheet music book in hand, those tunes were among the very first I learned.
"Growing up in small town Ontario I didn’t have a clue what my cultural roots were, so Lightfoot helped to fill that gap and contributed to a sense of identity. In the late 80’s I was asked to cover a Gord song for a tribute album that the CBC was putting together, which also included the Tragically Hip and Sarah McLachlan. After everything was recorded Gord’s manager, who had some weird beef with the Corp, refused to give permission for the tracks to be released. My quirky take of If You Could Read My Mind had a blazing drum machine and a funky wha wha guitar. Doubt if the bard would have approved, but he WAS on record for digging the lovely covers that Lori Cullen released on a couple of her albums.
"Seems we’ve played at least one of his gems at every gig of hers for the last … oh… 20 years, and at my most recent solo set I ran my all-time fave Lightfoot jam, Affair On Eighth Avenue, on a reverb-drenched electric sitar. Cultural roots. National identity. Beautiful songs. Touching to see the massive outpouring of admiration and respect for the true legend. R.I.P"
Robbie Robertson (Facebook): "Rainy day people all know there’s no sorrow they can’t rise above.” - Gordon Lightfoot
"Heartbroken to learn of the loss of a Canadian legend, Gordon Lightfoot. Sending love and comfort to his loved ones during this tough time. Rest in peace, Gordon."
Frank Davies (Founder of the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame- to FYI): "Gordon was the very first Anglophone songwriter to be inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame (CSHF). There was absolutely no other possible first choice, despite the giants of Canadian songwriting that already existed, many of whom the CSHF have inducted since. Gordon represented to all of us at the organisation in 1998, as he would today, every compelling and unassailable reason in asking him to launch the CSHF into being.
Gord created in Canada, lived in Canada, stayed in Canada, and spoke of Canada and everything that it is to be a Canadian through his songs. He loved Canada as much as Canada loved him back like no other songwriter of such stature had done before.
When we approached him about being the CSHF's first Anglophone inductee he had recently been released from hospital following an aortic aneurysm that almost cost him his life and a 6-week coma that followed it. He was still undergoing multiple follow-up surgeries at the time. He accepted immediately undeterred by not knowing what might still face him in the weeks ahead and what condition he might be in by the time of our event.
December 8th, 2003 was an incredible night at the Glenn Gould Theatre in Toronto as the CSHF celebrated our inaugural induction event with Gordon and his Francophone counterpart Félix Leclerc present along with a capacity music industry crowd there to witness and celebrate the occasion. It was a night of songs and honouring songwriters and the songwriting process, the first of many that have followed. But above all, it was a Lightfoot love-in.
Gordon however was much more interested in seeing and talking to the many songwriting friends that were there, than basking in the accolades we wished to bestow on him. He was backstage all night, laughing and chatting with the likes of Tom Cochrane (who presented him with his induction that night), Marc Jordon, Ron Sexsmith, Murray McLauchlan, Sylvia Tyson, Blue Rodeo and so many other wonderful Canadian songwriters and performers.
It didn't end there. He returned to the CSHF induction events for years after his own induction, to witness many of his other friends and future inductees being honoured by the CSHF. Over the years Gordon would often be seen in the back row of concert halls and clubs locally and across the country, unbeknownst to the audience, checking out his favourite bands and songwriters - more often than not Canadian ones - and hanging out with them after their shows. Always the quiet and humble and appreciative onlooker, never wishing to steal anyone else's limelight.
I heard my first Lightfoot song (actually two of them) in England in 1966 when Peter Paul & Mary played Early Morning Rain and For Lovin' Me at the Royal Festival Hall describing how this young Canadian songwriter was making waves in the folk/pop music world with his songs. Two songs as beautiful to me today as they were back then. My next Lightfoot song encounter was in 1970 when I first came to Canada and heard the timeless and quite simply, perfect "If You Could Read My Mind" that was ruling the North American airwaves at the time.
Gordon Lightfoot created a never-to-be-repeated moment in Canadian music. Such outstanding, original, heartfelt songs about the land we live in and the way we are who we are as Canadians, will never be done in quite the same way ever again."