Forty years ago, [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Gordon Lightfoot[/lastfm] scored his first hit single as a performer, the lovely “If You Could Read My Mind.” It may have been Lightfoot’s first exposure to a large audience under his own name, but he was already a music-business veteran with some successes to his credit by then.
In 1966, Lightfoot released his debut album, titled, in mid-’60s folksinger fashion, Lightfoot!, with an exclamation point. It included his performances of songs that had made 1965 a very good year for him: “For Lovin’ Me,” which had been a chart hit for [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Peter Paul and Mary[/lastfm], and “Early Morning Rain,” which PP&M had also cut, as well as “Ribbon of Darkness,” which had hit #1 on the country charts in a version by [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Marty Robbins[/lastfm].
Lightfoot would cut four more albums between 1967 and 1969: The Way I Feel, Did She Mention My Name?, Back Here on Earth, and Sunday Concert. The 1970 album Sit Down Young Stranger was retitled If You Could Read My Mind after the song became a Top-5 hit.
Lightfoot’s biggest success came in 1974 with Sundown. Both the album and its title song reached #1. His followup album, Cold on the Shoulder, became his only other top-10 hit on the album chart. Later that year, he released Gord’s Gold, a two-disc compilation featuring newly-recorded versions of songs from his 1960s albums and selected tracks from his 1970s albums. In 1976, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” became the song with which he’s most closely identified. Changing tastes made it tougher for him to get on the radio by the late 1970s, although he made some fine singles, and he charted albums as late as 1986.
This week, Gordon Lightfoot celebrates his 73rd birthday, still on the road, still singing songs he wrote nearly 50 years ago. Here he is, performing live last January. His voice isn’t what it used to be, but we should all be so lucky when we’re 73.
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