Oct 102014

Following my initial Facebook posting of my thoughts on Neil Young last night, which became the basis of today’s brief concert review, cdm picked up on my reference to Neil’s cover of the excellent Gordon Lightfoot song “If You Can Read My Mind” and said (offlist) something to the effect of,

I’m particularly glad to hear that Neil is a fan of the ‘foot.

If I were a normal person, I would have let that comment stay on the record without comment. That’s what nice, normal people do. I’m not at least one of those two things. Instead, I said something to the effect of,

It was helpful for me to be reminded that Gordon Lightfoot actually wrote a great song. I have not understood the Genius of Lightfoot cult that’s developed over the last 15 years. “Sundown” is kind of cool, but I also grew up chuckling at it and still do. That other hit of his, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” is Blood, Sweat & Tears/Billy Joel’s sea shanty bad. What am I missing?

This led to the type of back and forth we used to come to expect in the Halls of Rock, with cdm and other FB friends posting examples of other “great” Lightfoot songs and me shooting them down with statements like,

 I don’t know, that Hokey Macho way he sings does nothing for me. It’s like the Brawny paper towels guy came to life as a singer-songwriter.

Our old friend saturnismine backed me up with a one-liner that topped anything I’d been able to articulate:


  14 Responses to “Gordon Lightfoot: The Canadian Neil Diamond?”

  1. cherguevara

    I’ve never heard him called “the ‘foot” before – though I have heard him called “The Gord.” I’ve had some people tell me I should give him music a serious listen, but I just can’t seem to bring myself to do it. Ironically, though, today I listened to an album by Jackson C Frank that I thought sounded pretty nice. Maybe if he’d had a few hits like the Gord did, I wouldn’t have given it a chance, even though it has a similar sensitive machismo vibe.

    Did you see Paul Simon’s speech when Neil Diamond was inducted into the R&R Hall Of Fame? And then click onward to watch Neil’s speech, which is also an entertaining couple of minutes.


  2. 2000 Man

    I’m not much of a fan of Gordo. When I was a kid, in like 79 or 80 probably, one of my parents’ friends gave me a pair of tickets to see Gordo at a really cool, intimate kind of place that no longer exists. I took a friend that could handle some 70’s AM sounds and we went and sat in the fifth row and figured Sundown, If You Can Read My Mind, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald and Carefree Highway would make for enough familiar songs that we’d have a nice, mellow night. The dude was boring the shit out of us, and we were kind of laughing (quietly, this place was small) at his weird enunciations. He kept referring to The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald as “The Wreck,” and I swear after ever song he’d say he would play it soon. He’d sort of tell us what was coming and then play some horribly shitty song that no one had ever heard.

    We still talk about how he sang his songs. “Sundown you better take CAY-UR, if I find you been creepin’ down my back STAY-UR” and he sang the word Fitzgerald really weird. You could hardly make out the fitz part, and the gerald part was really funny so that it would seem really fast and quiet through Fitz, and then Louder through GER and then a whole octave higher for RALD. I think we laughed loud enough to piss off the “old people” there. We were easily the youngest people there by a minimum of twenty years.

    We left after sitting through him replacing a guitar string. He broke a string, and it took him at least twenty minutes to replace it, with everyone just sitting there watching him, and while he did it I thought, “Can’t a guitar tech do this in like two minutes?” while Gordo talked about what songs he would play after he fixed his guitar.We left after “The Wreck,” because it just sucked so hard, and we knew we’d just start openly laughing at him.

  3. That was a tremendous validation of what I always sensed was at the heart of that guy. Thanks. Very funny stuff!

  4. cliff sovinsanity

    I don’t think there is any defence I can muster that would satisfy you’re hard hearts for this old folkie. Your comments are a little harsh don’t you think. It’s Gordon Lightfoot for pete’s sake. He’s not wearing glitter or aspiring to be the showman that Neil Diamond always wanted to be. He’s just a guy with a guitar.
    I don’t see the phoniness you describe. Sure it’s all little serious sometimes, but that’s just as false as hokey-folkies like John Prine or Arlo Guthrie, who are both overrated.
    It goes without saying that my northern bias prevents me from attacking the man. Gord’s reverence up here is without parallel. He’s kind of like a national park or like a “preserved moose”.

  5. hrrundivbakshi

    Yo, Cliff —

    The problem is that statements like this:

    “It’s Gordon Lightfoot for pete’s sake.”

    … cut both ways. That dude’s mannerisms are so predictable, and so Gord-ian, that he’s become a full-on self-caricature — surely you can see this.

    One of the things my wife finds most entertaining/peculiar about me is my eagerness to take any pedestrian, hum-drum activity around the house, and turn it into a Lightfoot “ode,” complete with trademark mumbly vocal stylings, e.g.:

    “Peee-NUT ah-buterrrrhh; I will spread yuh on muh brrrrread… ‘nd I wuhl ADD… a little JEL-ly…” etcetera, etcetera.

    BTW, I adore his big hits. Except for that Edmund Fitzgerald song. That one blows.

  6. cliff sovinsanity

    p.s. – I also have no defence for writing you’re instead of your.

  7. cliff sovinsanity

    So I gather he’s NOT getting the RTH pass. Oh well, I tried.

  8. “Gord’s Gold” — Good grief . . . some friend’s sister had it and it was sure to send us running.

  9. misterioso

    Neil has to like Lightfoot: it’s a Canadian thing. Dylan likes him, too, and covered “Early Morning Rain.” Nice enough song to get to try to listen to some “early ‘foot,” which is also nice enough in its way. Someone please tell me that “Carefree Highway” has been used to sell Carefree sugarless gum.

  10. “I’ve never heard him called “the ‘foot” before”

    I might have made that nickname up.

  11. It’s taken me about 35 or 40 years but I’ve totally warmed up to the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

  12. misterioso

    You gotta take my word for this one: I do a good Gordon Lightfoot. I agree, I can deal with the hits but definitely not The Wreck of the Elepant’s Memory.

  13. ladymisskirroyale

    It’s all about the voice. I like it. (I will readily admit to liking some crappy bands because I like the way the vocal/vocalist sounds, and nixing other great bands because the vocalist bugs me.) If the vocals sound good then sometimes the music gets a pass.

    I put Gordon in the same vein as David Gates/Bread: pleasant, sincere, emotive, somewhat unidimensional, i.e. something a 13 year old girl can listen to and swoon over.

  14. Gordon Lightfoot was incredibly popular in Duluth in the 1970s when I was growing up there–mostly because of “The Wreck.” The first tune of his I heard was “Sundown,” which I still like. Always had a soft spot for “If You Could Read My Mind” too. I was never a big fan, but my dad loved him and played some of his albums quite a bit. I was working at a radio station in Duluth in 1989 and was given two free tickets to go see Gord, but I gave them to my mom and one of her friends.

    Gord really didn’t have any impact on my life after that, but during the Philly Fringe Fest a few weeks ago I saw a band from St. Paul do a show called “Gordon Lightfoot Comes Alive.” The lead singer was wearing a Gord wig, and there was quite a bit of irreverence, but they tried their best to make Gord’s songs sound good. I was surprised by how many tunes I actually enjoyed. Definitely had a new found respect for Gord after that.

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