Legendary Canadian folk musician Gordon Lightfoot dies at 84

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Published May 2, 2023 at 8:02 am

gordon lightfoot death

Gordon Lightfoot, the legendary folk musician whose silvery refrains told a tale of Canadian identity that was exported to listeners worldwide, has died at 84.

The singer-songwriter died of natural causes at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Monday evening, said Victoria Lord, the musician’s longtime publicist and a representative for the family. He had suffered numerous health issues in recent decades.

Considered one of the most renowned voices to emerge from Toronto’s Yorkville folk club scene in the 1960s, Lightfoot went on to record no less than 20 studio albums and pen hundreds of songs, including “Early Morning Rain,” “Carefree Highway” and “Sundown.”

“We have lost one of our greatest singer-songwriters,” tweeted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau late Monday.

“Gordon Lightfoot captured our country’s spirit in his music – and in doing so, he helped shape Canada’s soundscape. May his music continue to inspire future generations, and may his legacy live on forever.”

Other celebrities and politicians added their praises of Lightfoot’s craft on Twitter. Author Stephen King described him as “a wonderful performer,” while the Beach Boys co-founder Brian Wilson added a simple “rest in peace.”

Former Ontario premier Bob Rae said he was “such a decent man” and a “musician with a magnificent tenor voice that will last forever” while Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield said his “poetry and melodies are an eternal inspiration.”

gordon lightfoot death

Once called a “rare talent” by Bob Dylan, Lightfoot’s timeless compositions have transcended the boundaries of generations and musical genres.

Dozens of artists have covered his work, including Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand, Harry Belafonte, Johnny Cash, Anne Murray, Jane’s Addiction, Sarah McLachlan and, perhaps most surprisingly, dance supergroup Stars on 54 who turned his classic “If You Could Read My Mind” into a disco-pop curiosity for the 1998 movie “54.”

Most of his songs are deeply autobiographical with lyrics that probe his own experiences in a frank and unclouded manner and explore issues surrounding the national identity.

His 1975 song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” chronicled the demise of a Great Lakes ore freighter, and 1966’s “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” depicted the construction of the railway.

“I simply write the songs about where I am and where I’m from,” he once said. “I take situations and write poems about them.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 2, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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