Canadian Music Icon Gordon Lightfoot Dies At 84
Singer-songwriter and Canadian icon Gordon Lightfoot died Monday at a Toronto hospital. He was 84.
A cause of death was not immediately disclosed but, last month, Lightfoot cancelled his 2023 concert schedule due to “some health-related issues,” according to a statement.
On social media, tributes quickly started pouring in for Lightfoot late Monday.
"We have lost one of our greatest singer-songwriters," prime minister Justin Trudeau tweeted. "Gordon Lightfoot captured our country’s spirit in his music – and in doing so, he helped shape Canada’s soundscape. May his music continue to inspire future generations, and may his legacy live on forever."
Bryan Adams shared: "This one is really hard to write. Once in a blue moon you get to work and hang out with one of the people you admired when you were growing up. I was lucky enough to say Gordon was my friend and I'm gutted to know he's gone. The world is a lesser place without him. I know I speak for all Canadians when I say: thank you for the songs Gordon Lightfoot. Bless your sweet songwriting heart, RIP dear friend."
A tweet from Jann Arden read: "This song writer— truly walked among the greatest. His Songs woven into the fabric of our every day lives. We all know the words, even if we don’t think we do. What a legacy you leave behind. Steady on."
Author Stephen King remembered Lightfoot as "a great songwriter and a wonderful performer."
Canadian actor Kim Coates tweeted: "I’ll Never forget his music…songwriting and performing.. ever. Bye bud. What an international talent. Born in a small Ontario town and blossomed to stardom. His words In his tunes are something. Sweet dreams."
Gordon Lightfoot, pictured in 1965. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Born in Orillia, Ont., Lightfoot started performing as a child. He sang in his church choir, on local radio and at music festivals. By 12, he was on the stage of Toronto’s Massey Hall.
To support himself while studying at the Westlake College of Music in California, Lightfoot did session work and produced commercial jingles.
Lightfoot’s career took off upon his return to Canada in 1960. He released 20 studio albums between 1966 and 2020 that spawned songs like “Sundown,” “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" and the oft-covered "If You Could Read My Mind."
We're deeply saddened by the loss of 1998 Inductee Gordon Lightfoot. His music leaves behind an everlasting legacy in the hearts of Canadians everywhere. Our condolences to his loved ones, friends, and fans.— Canada’s Walk of Fame (@CWOFame) May 2, 2023
"Give me a wave I can ride upon, come and show your strength to me.” pic.twitter.com/EDUZ4MxO62
Lightfoot collected more than a dozen JUNO Awards and was nominated for four Grammys. He was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1986, Canada’s Walk of Fame in 1988, the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2012. He was a Companion of the Order of Canada and honoured on Canada Post stamps.
“Sometimes I wonder why I’m being called an icon, because I really don’t think of myself that way,” he told The Globe and Mail in 2008. In a 2004 interview with the CBC, Lightfoot said he wanted to continue performing “for as long as humanly possible.”
Gordon Lightfoot, pictured in 2022. Donald Kravitz / Getty Images
Over the years, many artists of different genres have recorded covers of songs by Lightfoot. Late greats like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Harry Belafonte put their spins on Lightfoot compositions, as did living legends like Barbra Streisand, Eric Clapton and Liza Minnelli. One of the most successful covers was the Stars on 54 version of "If You Could Read My Mind" from the soundtrack of the 1998 made-in-Toronto flick 54.
In February 2010, there were tweets claiming that Lightfoot had died. Two days later, he told Montreal journalist Richard Burnett: “I was in my car driving from the dentist with the radio on when the DJ said I was dead! It became an obituary. Then they played a strain of ‘If You Could Read My Mind.’ It gave me a bit of a shock.
“I put my foot on the gas and got to my office and the phone was lit up like a Christmas tree! It was also weird for my kids — my eldest daughter got very emotional that night.”
In a 2012 interview, Toronto broadcaster Liza Fromer asked Lightfoot what he wants people to say about him: “Gordon Lightfoot was…”
“A fair guy,” he replied. “I’m not really worried about that very much, you know. I’m going to leave a clean campsite when I get out of here.”
Lightfoot is survived by his wife of nearly a decade, Kim, and his six children from previous relationships as well as several grandchildren.
Listen to music from Gordon Lightfoot