I spend a lot of time on the road with my job, which means I spend lot of time listening the radio – something I’ve never had the opportunity to do before. I’m finding it one of the perks of the job.
A couple of days ago I listened to an interview with Gordon Lightfoot – an icon of Canadian music whose songs have been covered by the likes of Peter, Paul and Mary, Bob Dylan, and Elvis Presley.
The sheer beauty of his music aside, I have a special affection for Mr. Lightfoot because one of his tunes, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, was among the first songs I learned to play. The chords are approachable for a beginning guitarist and the lyrics tell a gripping story of a real shipwreck on Lake Superior.
When Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
In the rooms of her icewater mansion
Old Michigan steams like a young man’s dreams,
And the islands and bays are for sportsmen
And farther below Lake Ontario takes in what Lake Erie can send her
And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
With the gales of November remembered
“In the rooms of her icewater mansion” … I fell for that line the first time I heard it. In the interview, Mr. Lightfoot spoke of playing that song in Detroit, in front of surviving family members of the men who lost their lives when the Edmund Fitzgerald went down. He had a lot of stories to tell, not surprising after two marriages, a struggle with alcohol and forty years on the road. But at seventy, Mr. Lightfoot is a nothing if not a survivor. He’s about to start a new tour, and I hope his gritty, haunting voice will be with us for many years to come. His songs will be with us always. Here’s another gem:
If you could read my mind, love
What a tale my thoughts would tell
Just like an old-time movie
Bout a ghost from a wishing well
In a castle dark, or a fortress strong
With chains upon my feet
You know that ghost is me
And I will never be set free
As long as I’m a ghost that you can’t see
Thanks for the treasures, Mr. Lightfoot. And for your endurance.