Gordon Lightfoot


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(DeepL translation of my old original Italian text)

Gordon Lightfoot was the first Canadian folk-singer to become an international star. He was also one of the first folk-singers to fuse folk, pop and country into a warm, melodic, introspective and elegant genre. Lightfoot re-invented the figure of the simple, melancholy troubadour of the Pete Seeger school.

Lightfoot, who had grown up in the Toronto area, began composing music after college in the early 1960s. Discovered by the American folk circuit, some of his songs were absorbed into the repertoire of Peter Paul & Mary, Ian & Sylvia, etc. He was already 28 years old when he released his first album, Lightfoot (UA, 1966), which already counted on delicate, long-suffering country ballads such as Early Morning Rain and Ribbon Of Darkness. The albums The Way I Feel (UA, 1968), containing Canadian Railroad Trilogy (archetypal trans-continental epic that would become her specialty), Did She Mention My Name (UA, 1968), and Back Here On Earth (UA, 1969) continued in that sad, single-minded genre, but the romantic elegies of If You Could Read My Mind (Reprise, 1970) took a prodigious leap forward. Sung sotto voce with light acoustic guitar counterpoint, Minstrel Of the Dawn (worthy of Donovan`s early bucolic watercolors), Sit Down Young Stranger, and If You Could Read My Mind (in a mature folk-pop style), imposed an impressive singer-songwriter. Lightfoot, endowed with a firm, limpid, modern-preacher baritone that enhances the dramatic component of his stories, focused on universal themes: love, the human condition, natural settings.

The melancholy and poignant reflections on life of Summer Side Of Life (1971), both the capital melody of Summer Side Of Life and the realist triptych of Nous Vivons Ensemble, Same Old Loverman and Cotton Jenny, confirmed the musician's stature, In that muzak limbo that retains the dignity of craftsmanship, Lightfoot pursued a personal, twilight vision of modern life.

Don Quixote (1972), with the slender Old Dan's Records, perhaps his most depressed album, probed the most fragile recesses of the human psyche. The lively refrains, with more complex arrangements, of Sundown (1973) climbed the charts: Sundown, a Kenny Rogers-esque country refrain, and Carefree Highway, a solemn song of freedom, individualism, and fatalism. The entire album is marked by melodic and passionate country (High And Dry, Circle Of Steel).

The golden period was closed by Rainy Day People, on Cold On The Shoulder (Reprise, 1975), and the new historical epic, Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald, on Summertime Dream (1976).

Gord's Gold (Reprise, 1975) is a double anthology.

The decline began with Endless Wire (Warner, 1978). Shadows (1982) still boasts Heaven Help The Devil and 14 Karat Gold, and on Dream Street Rose (1980) Ghosts of Cape Horn and Sea Of Tranquillity stand out, but Salute (1983) and East of Midnight (1986) are only pale imitations of his classic style.

Waiting For You (Reprise, 1993) and Painter Passing Through (1998), on the other hand, are surprising returns to his domestic epos.

Lightfoot died in 2023.

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