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Gordon Lightfoot's 80th Birthday


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If it were not for Gordon Lightfoot and Cat Stevens, I would never have picked up and learned to play the guitar in 1970 at the age of 14. My guitar hero turns 80 today and can you guess what he is doing right now? If you guessed, playing a gig, you are correct. He's playing his 80th concert of the year on his 80th birthday.


I know many people have heard him in the last 10 or 15 years and have commented on how he has lost his gorgeous baritone voice that used to just drip like liquid gold. However, many people do not know how close to death he has come and how much he has had to endure to stay alive let alone tour and perform every single year.


In 2002, Gord suffered an abdominal aneurysm that required a tracheotomy and left him in a medically induced coma for six weeks. He underwent four surgeries where is abdominal muscles were repaired using muscle from his thighs. In 2004, he went back on tour and released a new album that he had worked on before his illness.


In 2006 he had a minor stroke while performing onstage and left him without the use of his middle and ring fingers of his picking hand. He continued performing NINE DAYS LATER using a backup guitarist for the more intricate guitar parts.


He claimed the illnesses "took a little starch out of my voice".


Since those episodes, now 16 years ago, he has toured North America (sometimes England, Scotland and Ireland) every year, concluding the tour season with a concert at Massey Hall in Toronto.


I've seen Gord twice in concert, both times her in Calgary at the Jack Singer Concert Hall. I was in the sixth row the last time. He performs for two hours with a single 15 minute intermission. There is a little banter between songs but he plays everything you want to hear and never seems to tire of pleasing his fans.


Bob Dylan made this comment about the artist: "I can't think of any Gordon Lightfoot song I don't like. 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".


No, he doesn't have the dulcet tones of the Lightfoot of 1970. But the experience of witnessing the great Lightfoot perform songs he wrote, 20 feet from me, will stay with me until I'm gone. The author of some of the greatest songs ever written like:


Early Morning Rain

For Loving Me

If You Could Read My Mind


Edmund Fitzgerald

Canadian Railroad Trilogy


Carefree Highway


I should also mention that he's announced a new album with 14 new songs will be released in 2019. Amazing!


Here is a photo of Gord during sound check taken by his wife yesterday:



Here is my cover of one of my favourite Lightfoot songs in tribute to him on his birthday:


Edited by drathbun
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Started playing guitar at the age of twenty in 1971, when a friend showed me some chords and a picking pattern. Already a fan of Gordon's work, I bought one of his songbooks & started learning all sorts of good stuff, thanks to him.


At some point within the next three years, I saw him perform twice in a 1,500 seat venue with Red Shea & Rick Haynes, as he was hitting his peak in popularity. Never did see him perform again after that.


If I had to list a few favorites, I'd start with Early Morning Rain, The Circle Is Small, If You Could Read My Mind, and Daylight Katy.


But I gotta say, it hasn't all been good between me & Gordon. One of my worst nightmares would be to get stuck in an elevator with Sundown and/or Edmund Fitzgerald playing in a loop!

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A couple yrs old, but kind of funny. Ian “you’d think you could afford a new one”.





Two of my favorite singer-songwriters. Between the two of them, their songs make up a big chunk of the songs I've played over the years. Virtually every player of my generation has a version of "Four Strong Winds" and "Early Morning Rain" somewhere in their past.


I saw both Ian and Sylvia and Gordon Lightfoot back when I was in college, and they were in their prime.


We're all getting old. Happy birthday, Gord!

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I had tickets to see Gordon live for the first time in Wichita Kansas in 1978; my wife was hugely pregnant and I was sure we'd be going to the hospital and not to the concert. My daughter managed to hold off until the next day. Gordon was one of my early influences, and I once got a gig because I had a B-45-12 and the club owner thought Gordon was God. I guess he figured anybody who had a guitar like Gordon's had to be OK. Thanks Gordon, and happy BD!

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I was in the transition between top 40 (Cousin Brucie) and the fascinating new world of FM Radio (WNEW) when "If You Could Read My Mind" hit the charts. I recall the WNEW DJ saying that an element of Gord's cult following was upset that their secret was out. I was one of the new converts, ending up with pretty much all of his LPs until Dream Street Rose which I didn't care for at all. A few years later I visited a friend who was working outside with music playing. One great unfamiliar Gordon song after another came on. It was "Shadows" which remains my favorite but I still love all those records. Gordon is a real treasure. Saw him in the mid 80's and he seemed to have gone through a lot even back then, it is nearly miraculous that he is still performing.

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My best to Gordon. I was never a big fan but liked him enough to give him a pass on Edmund Fitzgerald. There has been a pretty good crop of singer/songwriters coming out the north and following in Gordon's footprints though - Fred Eaglesmith, James Keelaghan, and such.

Edited by zombywoof
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Very nice cover, Doug, good singing there.


Nice post, nice to know what he went through. I knew health problems but no details.


Did you see him at the 80th? Does he tour with bass, another acoustic guitar player, and drums? Any other musicians in his band?


Thanks, LM. No, I didn't see him. He was in Orillia (his home town). He usually ends his year of touring with a concert at the Toronto Massey Hall (where he started many years ago), but the Massey Hall is closed for renovations. I saw him a couple of times here in Calgary.


His band line-up has changed over the years but for the last long while he has toured with drums, bass, keys and lead guitarist. His bass guitarist, Rick Haynes, has been with him since 1969. His original lead guitarist (1965-1970) was Red Shea (a totally awesome acoustic player) and was replaced by Terry Clements who played as his main side-man from 1970 until his death in 2011. Guitarist Carter Lancaster has replaced Terry since 2011.


You can find out a lot of information about Gord, his music, his band and a complete set of guitar tabs at this wonderful website:




I also recommend this recently published biography. Lightfoot has refused all offers of biography writers until just recently. It is a marvellous read.



Edited by drathbun
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My partner drove a Volvo 740 GL for a while which we christened Gordon after the original GL!


Great artist. I think of him whenever I pick up my Hummingbird 12, obviously not a B45-12 but it has “that” tone.


I agree Jinder. With my new Hummingbird 12 and Gord's 80th, I've been playing a LOT of GL songs on it... even GL songs that don't feature the 12 string sound amazing! Playing the 12 string with "If You Could Read My Mind" and "Beautiful" give those songs a whole new chiming charm.

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Just can't warm to lightfoot . I can easily see and hear the talent , but he's just one of those artists that don't touch me emotionally

Funny how things like that 'work'. I would have thought you were on, but recognize the (missing) feeling from other acts. .


Regarding G.L I'm only half there, hereby admitted - but especially Sundown hit my guts from the very first time it came on the radio just after release.

Still on the same old cassette-tape to this day.

Edited by E-minor7
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