More than a musician, he had Canada in his soul
39 Artists Cover His Songs
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TV screen photo by Mike Kelly


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To the end: Gordon Lightfoot toured up until his death on May 1 and had concert dates outstanding. (Getty Images Photo)


An observer, historian and romantic

Gordon Lightfoot had Canada in his soul. He showed us the country like noone else. Sharing it through music and eloquent lyrics, his insights helped us appreciate this nation better. An affinity for nature shaped and coloured his work.

He wrote about 500 songs during a more than 60-year career. In the early days his compositions were more popular than he was. Bob Dylan, Ian and Sylvia Tyson, Peter, Paul and Mary and others recorded Early Morning Rain and For Lovin’ Me and more turning them into hits.

As you’ll hear on today’s 39-song playlist many different artists covered his tunes with If You Could Read My Mind and Early Morning Rain being among the most popular.

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(Geoff George Photo)

A Man of His Time

Born in less enlightened times there are songs and lyrics in his work that are offensive – something Lightfoot readily acknowledges. He took For Lovin’ Me off his set list years ago for its hurtful bravado towards his then wife.

In a 2016 interview with Vanity Fair he said: “I was married at the time, and it was a damn poor song to write when you’re married to somebody. I learned a lesson from that, because after I sang that song for a while, I asked myself, What am I saying?! Even long after I was divorced and separated and she’d gone her way and I’d gone mine, I would sing this song and think, Geez. How did you she ever put up with this?! I stopped singing it.”

And one of his most famous songs – If You Could Read My Mind – also came under scrutiny. At the request of his eldest daughter Ingrid – one of six Lightfoot children – he changed a single word in the song about the dissolution of his marriage to her mother, Brita Ingegerd Olaisson.

The original verse was I’m just trying to understand the feelings that you lack. Instead, he revised it to I’m just trying to understand the feelings that we lack when performing the song.

About the playlist

Some of these interpretations give me chills – Rose Cousins singing If You Could Read My Mind; Eva Cassidy’s Early Morning Rain. Others show the singer at their best in ways we may have forgotten or never known – Bob Dylan‘s light and easy touch on Early Morning Rain; Murray McLauchlan‘s intimate Home From The Forest; Nancy Griffith‘s lively Ten Degrees and Getting Colder or Harry Belafonte’s soulful Oh, Linda! Even Herb Alpert and the Tijauna Brass offer a surprisingly cool and modern version in their 1971 take on If You Could Read My Mind.

Thanks to Kurated subscribers who made great contributions to the call for your favourite Lightfoot covers. In a few hours of researching Lightfoot cover songs it’s clear there are many more out there than I found. The website lists I landed on aren’t comprehensive. Thanks to readers the playlist includes Billy Bragg and Joe Henry singing a wonderfully raw Early Morning Rain; the psychedelic and powerful Pride of Man by Quicksilver Messenger Service as well as The Tragically Hip’s searing version of Black Day in July. Not to forget the Headstones totally rockin’ version of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Yes! Also there’s one tune in the list that isn’t an original. The song Lightfoot is a tribute by the Guess Who.

Kurated is a music sharing project.
Stay tuned and enjoy,
Kris Sig Plastic V3

06 May 2023

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