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Canadian folk music icon Gordon Lightfoot dead at 84

Canadian folk music icon Gordon Lightfoot, whose inspirational and poetic songs etched themselves into Canada’s musical landscape, has died at the age of 84, according to his longtime publicist Victoria Lord.

Lord said Lightfoot died at a Toronto hospital Monday night. The cause of death was not immediately known

Born in Orillia, Ont., Lightfoot was hailed as a Canadian folk troupe for his soulful music and soulful lyrics. In songs like Canadian Railway Trilogy and: The Destruction of Edmund Fitzgerald he studied the country’s history, geography and culture.

“He’s our poet laureate, he’s our iconic singer-songwriter,” Rush singer Geddy Lee said in a 2019 documentary. Gordon Lightfoot. If you could read my mind.

“If Canada had a Mount Rushmore, Gordon would be on it,” said Tom Cochrane in the same documentary.

“Gordon’s songs are works of art, every bit as modern as classical poetry,” Cochrane told Lightfoot during his 2003 induction into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.

“But more importantly, Gordon Lightfoot led the way, and he showed us… that you can be true to your roots. You can draw on your influences at home and in the country and you can incorporate those inspirations into the structure of your work and still be. international success”.

From teen promise to mainstream fame

Performing as a child on local radio and at regional music festivals, Lightfoot wrote his first song; The Hula Hoop songIn 1955, still in high school.

“A lot of the imagery in my songs is taken from this kind of country,” the singer-songwriter said of Orillia in a 1967 CBC-TV interview. Telescope.

“I have been to many places and I have seen some beautiful country. I don’t think any of them will stay with me or impress me as much as this country in Muskoka… It’s the country I grew up in. “.

WATCH |: Lightfoot on how his home helped shape his songs.

Gordon Lightfoot, where he grew up

Gordon Lightfoot talks about the Canadian Shield and how the imagery in his songs was taken from around Orillia.

After graduating from high school, Lightfoot moved to Los Angeles to study at Westlake College of Music. He returned to Canada in 1959 and worked various jobs in Toronto. She was a choral performer, dancer at CBC Country Hoadown and a two-tone folk singer with Terry Whelan.

In the 1960s, inspired by the music of Bob Dylan, Lightfoot became part of Toronto’s burgeoning folk scene. He developed his songwriting skills and started working on his debut album. Lightfoot! originated in 1966

Meanwhile, Lightfoot began what would become a highly anticipated, annual concert stand at Toronto’s Massey Hall. Launched in 1967, it took place annually until the mid-1980s, then dropped to once every 18 months. In 2005, Lightfoot resumed the Massey Hall event as an annual tradition.

A man strums a guitar while singing on stage during halftime of a Gray Cup game, with some stadium floodlights in the distance.
Lightfoot speaks during the 100th CFL Gray Cup game on November 25, 2012 in Toronto. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

International recognition

After gaining acclaim at home in the late 1960s, the Canadian outfit broke through internationally in the 1970s after signing to Warner Records in the US, making a big splash with the release of a single earlier that decade. If you could read my mindnow a popular standard.

Lightfoot followed it up over the next six years, producing many of his best-known songs such as Beautiful, Sunset, Don Quixote, Carefree highway, Rainy day people and: The Destruction of Edmund Fitzgerald.

Some of those songs were written after his first marriage ended during his long-time affair with Kathy Smith, who was later convicted of drugging John Belushi after his death.

“It was one of these relationships where you have a sense of danger coming into the picture,” Lightfoot said in 2019. If you could read my mind.

WATCH |: Lightfoot talks about how he writes.

Gordon Lightfoot on writing songs with a Canadian “atmosphere”.

Gordon Lightfoot talks to Vancouver teenagers about not writing songs about Canada, per se.

Lightfoot hit the road in the 1970s, touring the US from Alaska to Hawaii and playing a number of European gigs including Amsterdam, Munich, Frankfurt, the Montreux Festival in Switzerland and sold out shows at London’s Royal Albert Hall.

Despite the decline of folk in the late 1970s and 1980s, Lightfoot continued to create his own unique music, although he also ventured into acting, appearing in film. Harry Tracy With Bruce Dern and Helen Shaver.

In 1987, the much-admired songwriter made headlines when he filed a lawsuit against Michael Masser, who composed the tune. The greatest love of all. The song became a big hit after being recorded by Whitney Houston.

Lightfoot claimed that Masser’s song stole 24 lines of the melody If you could read my mind. The case was settled out of court, with Maser publicly apologizing.

A man sings and plays the guitar on stage.
Lightfoot performs on 100 Years Young, a CBC variety special for Canada’s centennial on January 1, 1967. (Roy Martin/CBC Still Photo Collection)

A determined performer

During his long career, Lightfoot overcame a number of ailments, including a bout of Bell’s palsy and, in his early performing years, alcoholism. He overcame addiction in the 1980s.

In September 2002, the country was on edge when news broke that Lightfoot had been airlifted to hospital with severe stomach pains just as he was about to take the stage for a concert in Orillia. The singer suffered a rupture of the stomach artery, had to undergo several operations and was in a coma for six weeks.

After three months in the hospital, Lightfoot took a playful approach to his recovery, vowing to finish a new studio album and return to the stage. He released the album Harmony in 2004 and made her comeback performance at the Mariposa Festival that same year.

WATCH |: Talking to Alex Trebek about writing folk songs.

Gordon Lightfoot and Alex Trebek on CBC’s Teen Dance Show 1963

Young Gordon Lightfoot talks to Music Hop’s Alex Trebek about his writing and recording plans.

Although he suffered a minor stroke in 2006 that temporarily left him without the use of some of the fingers on his left hand, he continued to take regular guitar lessons and work out at the gym, aiming to keep him in shape for the road.

He belatedly accepted the news of his untimely death in 2010, and later performed a high-profile Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame concert with The Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie while maintaining his touring schedule.

An inspiration to many musicians

Many Canadian musicians have cited Lightfoot as an inspiration, from Downey to classical guitarist Leona Boyd.

In addition to early adopters such as Ian and Sylvia Tyson and Peter, Paul and Mary, a wide range of artists have recorded Lightfoot’s music, including his idol, Bob Dylan. Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Petula Clark, Stompin’ Tom Connors, Liza Minnelli, Barbra Streisand, Sarah McLachlan and Anne Murray. The Rheostatics also did his work.

“I’ve never heard a cover of one of my songs that I didn’t like,” Lightfoot told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette in 2008.

“Sure, I’ve heard some weird variations every now and then, but they always seem to work well. I’d be surprised if people would enjoy my songs enough to want to record them, and that inspired me and made me work harder.”

WATCH |: About creating music throughout life.

Gordon Lightfoot creating his greatest hits

Canadian music legend Gordon Lightfoot talks to Ian Hanomansing about his music, his legacy and some of the darker parts of his personal life during his five decades in the music business.

Lightfoot has received a number of tributes in recognition of his contributions to Canadian music and culture. There were albums, honorary titles, a postage stamp and even a guitar created in his name. He was awarded the General’s Award for the Performing Arts in 1997 and in 2003 was invested as a Companion of the Order of Canada, the highest level of the order.

With multiple Grammy nominations and more than 15 Juno Awards, Lightfoot has been inducted into numerous halls of fame, including the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. Bob Dylan led the ceremony.

“I know he’s been offered this award before and he never accepted it because he wanted me to come over here to present it to him,” Dylan quipped onstage at the 1986 Juno Awards. “He is one of rare talent.”

A man holding a guitar sings on stage in front of a microphone during a charity concert.
Lightfoot performs during Canada’s Live 8 on July 2, 2005 in Barrie, Ont. (Donald Weber/Getty Images)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada has lost “one of our greatest singer-songwriters.

Lightfoot “captured the spirit of our country in his music, and in doing so he helped shape the soundscape of Canada,” Trudeau wrote on Twitter.

A consummate entertainer to the very end, Lightfoot stubbornly refused to do live shows. He toured the UK for the first time in 35 years in 2015, and two years later was part of Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations in Ottawa.

He released Solo In 2020, a collection of studio recordings that he had been kicking around in the vaults for several years. In 2010, he vowed to continue playing up to 70 concerts a year “because I love to do it.”

Lightfoot is survived by his wife, Kim, six children, Fred, Ingrid, Galen, Eric, Miles and Meredith, and several grandchildren.

Now airing on CBC Gem.

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