What Was Gordon Lightfoot’s Connection To The Edmund Fitzgerald?
Canadian singer Gordon Lightfoot sadly died Monday night at the age of 84 in his home city of Toronto. We learned that he'd recently been hospitalized, and had been fighting some health concerns on and off for a few years.
Lightfoot had a number of hits over the years, but none seemed to gain more popularity than "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," which was based on a real freighter shipwreck in the Great Lakes. But WHY did Canadian Gordon write the song about an American Freighter's wreck? And why is it so popular, not just in the Great Lakes Region, but around the world?
In a statement issued Monday night, Gordon's facebook page confirmed that the Canadian Singer/Songwriter had died.
He left behind a pretty incredible legacy in the music industry. He got his first radio hit in 1962 with "Remember Me, I'm the One" in Canada, hit No. 3 on CHUM radio. And obviously, Gordon was Canadian, so that was a huge accomplishment.
But he shot to fame with his six-minute epic of "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." And it's shocking that this song did so well.
On the surface, it's a song about a stone freighter that sank on Lake Superior during a storm, which doesn't really lend itself to an exciting topic for songwriting. But Lightfoot managed to latch onto the story, and make it an epic now heard around the world.
And our guess is, it had everything to do with the way Lightfoot told the story.
"The Legend lies on from the Chippewa on down
Of the bit lake they called 'Gitche Gumee.'
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy.
With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty,
That Good Ship and true was a bone to be chewed
When the 'Gales of November' came Early."
How are you not already sucked in with the first verse of the song, right?
Lightfoot's attachment to the ship and it's fate kind of came by chance. He was reading an edition of Newsweek, and stumbled across an article about the ship and its sinking. He became so enamored with the story, that he wrote about the ship, the storm, and the men aboard as they fought to keep the ship afloat.
He used it as a commemoration to the men and their families, then released the song in 1976. It was an instant hit. Fans were enamored with his story telling, and it earned Lightfoot his first Top 10 Domestic Radio hit.
It's been said in the past that he was very protective of the song, and the wishes of the families of the men who died on the ship in the song. He was adamant that the song was in no way used for exploiting the victims, and in fact, he kept in contact with many of them, and even appeared at several memorial services in support of the families.
According to the official Edmund Fitzgerald website, Lightfoot was a "good guy, a genuine man," and family members felt blessed that he wrote the song, to preserve the memory of those lost that fateful day at sea in the Great Lakes.