Gordon Lightfoot, the folk singer-songwriter who was regarded as one of Canada’s most iconic musicians, has died at 84.
Lightfoot achieved his greatest international success in the 1970s, with hits like “If You Could Read My Mind” and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” and several platinum-selling albums.
The news was announced on Lightfoot’s Facebook page, announcing he died at a Toronto hospital on Monday evening. No further details were given.
Born November 17, 1938 in Ontario, Canada, Lightfoot began performing music at a young age and broke through as a songwriter in the 1960s: acts like Peter, Paul and Mary and Marty Robbins recorded his songs. His debut album Lightfoot! was released in 1966, launching him to music stardom.
He achieved international fame in the 1970s with hit songs like “If You Could Read My Mind,” “Sundown,” “Carefree Highway” and “Rainy Day People,” securing his place as one of his generation’s folk music superstars.
Lightfoot was especially well-regarded in his native Canada: he has been called “Canada’s Bard,” a national hero and one of the country’s all-time greatest songwriters.
Many of his songs, like “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” and “Canadian Railroad Trilogy,” are based on Canadian history.
“He is our poet laureate, he is our iconic singer-songwriter,” said Rush singer Geddy Lee in the 2019 documentary Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind, per CBC.
Lightfoot was also acclaimed by his fellow musicians in the folk music scene. His songs were widely covered by a variety of major artists, including Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Barbra Streisand.
“I can’t think of any Gordon Lightfoot song I don’t like,” Bob Dylan once said. “Everytime I hear a song of his, it’s like I wish it would last forever…. Lightfoot became a mentor for a long time. I think he probably still is to this day.”
Lightfoot received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards, Canada’s highest performing arts honor, and received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012. He was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1986 and the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001. He was also nominated for five Grammy Awards throughout his career.
After news of his death broke, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shared his condolences and paid tribute to Lightfoot.
“Gordon Lightfoot captured our country’s spirit in his music – and in doing so, he helped shape Canada’s soundscape,” Trudeau wrote on Twitter, calling Lightfoot “one of our greatest singer-songwriters.”
“May his music continue to inspire future generations, and may his legacy live on forever.”
Rest in peace to the legendary Gordon Lightfoot — a national hero in his native Canada and writer of so many incredible songs.
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