My Tribute to Gordon Lightfoot

Canadian Gordon Lightfoot was arguably the greatest and most underrated folk artist of his generation and possibly of all-time. Many folk singers before and since have embodied the melancholic troubadour as a key component of their personas – most notably, Pete Seeger – but Lightfoot took this to a new level of artistic refinement.

His songs were as touching and moving as they were austere and elegant. Lightfoot was discovered by the American folk circuit and some of his songs were covered by established artists.

Lightfoot’s first album, Lightfoot, recorded in 1966 when he was 28 years old, was notable for its delicate country ballads such as Early Morning Rain and Ribbon Of Darkness. The albums The Way I Feel (1968), Did She Mention My Name (1968), and Back Here On Earth (1969) continued in that melancholic style.

But it was the 1970 album, If You Could Read My Mind, particularly the title track, that proved to be a huge creative leap forward for the artist. The song is a mature testament to love lost, a romantic elegy full of symbolic meaning and tenderness and a singer-songwriter tour de force. Few artists can claim to evoke the universal themes of love and of the human condition in such a poignant and tender way as Lightfoot achieves in this song.

His richness of prose combined with such wonderful introspective story-telling drama is revelatory. The melancholy is enhanced by a sublime baritone voice which is offset by a light acoustic guitar counterpoint that few singer-songwriters have been able to equal.

The beautiful reflective melody of Summer Side Of Life and the realist triptych of Nous Vivons Ensemble, Same Old Loverman and Cotton Jenny, reiterated Lightfoot’s contemplative personal vision of modern life and his quest to probe the fragile recesses of the human psyche.

Lightfoot continued with these themes on the album, Don Quixote (1972), cementing the musician’s stature as a dignified craftsman. Lightfoot’s follow-up, Sundown (1973), largely abandons the depressed tone of his past glories for a melodic and passionate country, exemplified by the title track. However, Carefree Highway is a more solemn song of freedom, individualism. and fatalism. Lightfoot’s golden period continued with the albums Cold On The Shoulder (1975) and Summertime Dream (1976).

Even though the artists creative decline began with Shadows (1982), the album still boasts the brilliant Heaven Help The Devil and 14 Karat Gold. The tracks Ghosts of Cape Horn and Sea Of Tranquility are the stand outs on Dream Street Rose (1980).

After the creative disappointments of Salute (1983) and East of Midnight (1986), Lightfoot’s reputation as a majestic chronicler of the human condition returned with the albums, Waiting For You (1993) and Painter Passing Through (1998).

Gordon Lightfoot will be remembered as one of the greatest singer-songwriters of all-time.

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