Tuesday, May 16, 2023

A Canadian Legend, RIP Gordon Lightfoot, by J.C. Kavanagh


Book 3 of the Award-winning Twisted Climb Series

Born and raised in Orillia, Ontario, Gordon Meredith Lightfoot (yes, Meredith), began singing publicly at an early age in school and in the church choir. Recognizing his vocal talent, Lightfoot's mom encouraged his participation in local events and competitions. At the age of 12, after winning a singing competition, he was invited to perform at Massey Hall. Little did he know that he'd sing there another 170 times over the course of 60 years.  

Growing up in a rural community, Lightfoot's talents were not limited to music and singing. As a teen, he excelled in extra-curricular school activities including track and field and football. 

Lightfoot began his music career in Toronto, Ontario, performing in coffee-houses that catered to folk music. His songs were picked up by multiple artists and years later, he became a household name across Canada. Back then and even today, he is regarded as one of the greatest songwriters of all time. In fact, between 1965 and 1976, he received 16 Juno Awards (the Canadian version of a Grammy) for Top Folk Singer, Top Male Vocalist and twice as Composer of the Year (1972 and 1976). He was nominated for five Grammy awards and in 1980, was named Canadian Male Recording Artist of the Decade in recognition of his works during the 70s. He was trained on the piano but self-taught in drums/percussion and folk guitar. 

In 1970, his song, "If you could read my mind," became a major hit, selling over one million copies. Lightfoot later explained that the song was written about the deterioration of his first marriage and all the emotions associated with a break up. Many of his songs reflect emotional distress, whether from his own experiences or from what he'd read. Examples include, "Sundown," "Rainy day people," and another famous piece he wrote after reading about a tragic disaster on Lake Superior, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." 

Health issues dogged Lightfoot for many decades. In 1972, he contracted Bell's Palsy, a medical term for partial facial paralysis. In 2002, after writing 30 new songs for his next album, he had surgery for a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm. He was placed in a 6-week coma and remained hospitalized for over three months. Shows were cancelled for the remainder of 2002. Years later, during a performance in 2006, Lightfoot suffered a minor stroke. Thankfully, the effects were temporary and within eight months, he regained full use of his right hand.

Such was the recognition of Lightfoot as a super-songwriter/singer that he was invited to perform during Canada's 100th birthday celebrations in the nation's capital, Ottawa in 1967, AND AGAIN for Canada's 150th birthday celebration in 2017.

Last month, Gordon Lightfoot's health deteriorated to the point where he had to cancel the remaining 2023 tour dates. Sadly, he passed on May 1 at the age of 84. His legacy will forever live in the hundreds of songs he composed and sang. RIP Gordon. 

During the public visitation for Gordon Lightfoot, held in his hometown of Orillia,
a friend brought his dog, which as you can see from this photo captured by Fred Thornhill of
The Canadian Press, paid his respects to the much-loved musician.

CBC documentary photo: Gordon Lightfoot 

J.C. Kavanagh, author of
The Twisted Climb - A Bright Darkness (Book 3)
The Twisted Climb - Darkness Descends (Book 2) voted BEST Young Adult Book 2018, Critters Readers Poll and Best YA Book FINALIST at The Word Guild, Canada
The Twisted Climb,
voted BEST Young Adult Book 2016, P&E Readers Poll
Voted Best Local Author, Simcoe County, Ontario, 2021
Novels for teens, young adults and adults young at heart
Email: author.j.c.kavanagh@gmail.com
Twitter @JCKavanagh1 (Author J.C. Kavanagh)
Instagram @authorjckavanagh


  1. Interesting post. Enjoyed a bit of learning today

  2. R.I.P. Gordon Lightfoot. Your music will stay with us forever.


I have opened up comments once again. The comments are moderated so if you're a spammer you are wasting your time and mine. I will not approve you.

Popular Posts

Books We Love Insider Blog

Blog Archive