Jim Algie salutes Gordon Lightfoot, a true Canadian titan, who wrote some of the only good songs on AM radio when I was getting into music.
In the early and mid-70s, Gordon Lightfoot was this lighthouse whose vision and voice were so powerful that they illuminated distant shores beyond the sea of schmaltz engulfing popular music. Who else could put a six-minute dirge about a shipwreck, which has no chorus, into the top of the pop charts?
Many Gordon Lightfoot songs are sacred to me, but “Carefree Highway” has has a special VIP suite in my soul. Who doesn’t wanna slip away on a carefree highway sometimes? Now there’s a masterful opening line which drags you into the song, “Picking up the pieces of my sweet shattered dreams…” We all know what that’s like, but few have the ability to state such a sentiment in as few words and set it to a catchy melody.
I like the song intro on the Live in Reno version from 2000, which is very down to earth and reveals that Gordon Lightfoot was a working musician with no pretensions or starry-eyed ego.
I always go back to his greatest hits, like Sundown, Carefree Highway and The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald a few times a year for master classes in scene-setting, lyric writing and melody-making. When Bob Dylan inducted him into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, he called Gordon Lightfoot a “rare talent.”
Like many of the greats who covered his songs, Elvis, Johnny Cash and Glen Campbell, Gord’s taken up permanent residence in music’s Mount Olympus.
Jim Algie has profiled other Canadian musicians like Leonard Cohen in this collection of his best nonfiction and fiction stories about music in the collection “On the Night Joey Ramone Died: Tales of Rock and Punk from Bangkok, New York, Cambodia and Norway.” The ebook and paperback are available on Amazon. The acclaimed author, Timothy Hallinan, said, “The book captures the pop music world as well as, and in some cases better than, most actual rock autobiographies.”