His publicist, Victoria Lord, confirmed the dying however gave no trigger. In April, Mr. Lightfoot canceled all his tour dates for this 12 months due to well being issues.
With a molasses-rich baritone and a soulful 12-string guitar, Mr. Lightfoot discovered worldwide fame together with others, corresponding to Neil Younger, Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell, who had been rising from Canadian espresso homes and golf equipment within the Nineteen Sixties.
Mr. Lightfoot remained near his roots as a Canadian troubadour, nonetheless, typically searching for to evoke the grandeur and thriller of the nation’s vastness. He launched into lengthy canoe expeditions into Canada’s hinterlands — “the place,” he mentioned, “the rivers run north into the Arctic Ocean” — and tried to convey the emotions of solitude in his work.
He mentioned his music “Sundown” (1974) was impressed by the colours of nightfall when he was residing in a Canadian farmhouse — and was interwoven right into a cautionary story about his onetime girlfriend, the backup singer Cathy Smith, who was convicted within the overdose dying of the comedy star John Belushi after she injected him with heroin and cocaine in 1982.
Mr. Lightfoot’s expansive “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” (1967) turned such a beloved anthem to Canada that it’s usually carried out by faculty choirs.
“If there was a Mount Rushmore in Canada, Gordon could be on it,” the Canadian musician Tom Cochrane mentioned in a 2019 documentary about Mr. Lightfoot, “If You Might Learn My Thoughts.” Geddy Lee, the lead singer of the Canadian rock band Rush, known as him “our poet laureate.”
Mr. Lightfoot confronted privates struggles, nonetheless. Whilst he reached the peak of his success, he was sinking into alcoholism that shattered his relationships and clouded his creativity. He additionally had bouts of facial paralysis from the neurological dysfunction Bell’s palsy. “I created emotional trauma in a complete lot of individuals,” he mentioned.
He mentioned he stopped consuming in 1982 and resumed recording and touring. In 2002, shortly earlier than taking the stage in his hometown of Orillia, Ontario, Mr. Lightfoot collapsed and was close to dying throughout a six-week coma due to an aneurysm in his belly aorta.
He spent two years recovering and returned to the stage and studio, making a complete of greater than 20 albums. Amongst these he credited with serving to him rebound, he mentioned, was his good friend Bob Dylan, who suggested him in regards to the “work ethic” wanted to show an thought right into a music. It was all about, Mr. Lightfoot mentioned, “simply getting the job performed.”
Mr. Lightfoot was a notable solo performer on Canada’s folks music scene lengthy earlier than he got here to consideration on the U.S. charts in 1965 with a success model of his music “Early Morning Rain” by the people duo Ian & Sylvia. Peter, Paul and Mary adopted up with a canopy of the music and likewise with Mr. Lightfoot’s “For Lovin’ Me.” (Mr. Lightfoot thought Elvis Presley’s 1972 cover of “Early Morning Rain” was among the many finest.)
As well as, Marty Robbins hit the highest of the Billboard nation charts in 1965 with Mr. Lightfoot’s “Ribbon of Darkness.”
Starting in 1970 with “If You Might Learn My Thoughts,” Mr. Lightfoot’s lyrical imagery and warbling, slow-roll vocals turned a staple of Prime 40 radio for the following six years, together with “Sunset,” which reached the top of the Billboard Scorching 100 chart, and 1974’s “Carefree Highway,” which he mentioned got here from a freeway signal for Carefree, Ariz., he glimpsed on a nighttime drive from Flagstaff to Phoenix.
A Canadian Broadcasting Corp. interviewer as soon as requested Mr. Lightfoot for the important playlist to know his music. On the high, he mentioned, was the 1976 hit “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” maybe his most distinctive piece, which he wrote after studying an article in regards to the sinking of an iron-ore vessel on Lake Superior throughout a storm in 1975. All 29 crew members perished.
The destiny of the doomed ship unfolds like an epic poem from the music’s first strains: “The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down/Of the massive lake they name Gitche Gumee.” And to his closing: “Superior, they mentioned, by no means offers up her lifeless/When the gales of November come early.”
“As he’s singing it, you’re getting the sturdy sense that not solely is one ship taking place, however a complete lifestyle is disappearing,” Robert Everett-Inexperienced, a former Toronto Globe and Mail music critic, told NPR. “It’s one thing form of dusty and real and remoted, and it’s gone.” (The music peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Scorching 100.)
In the event you might learn Gordon Lightfoot’s thoughts, that is the story his ideas might inform
Mr. Lightfoot carried out greater than 2,500 concert events throughout his profession however could possibly be reticent and uneasy when reporters requested for private insights into his work and legacy.
Mr. Lightfoot, who as soon as known as himself a “cosmopolitan hick,” had a shyness that would depart individuals wanting extra. An interviewer on Canada’s “Breakfast Tv” present tried to coax his ideas on being thought-about a “Canadian icon.” He rapidly pivoted to speak about nature.
Throughout an interview for a 2019 Rolling Stone profile, Mr. Lightfoot mentioned he believed storytelling was on the coronary heart of his success.
“They’re all tunes that transfer alongside and have a ahead momentum,” he mentioned, “which is what I search for in my writing. Ahead momentum.”
Gordon Meredith Lightfoot Jr. was born in Orillia, Ontario, on Nov. 17, 1938. His father managed a dry-cleaning facility, and his mom was a homemaker.
His performing debut was at 5 singing “I’m a Little Teapot” at a church Sunday faculty gathering. He joined the church choir, was on native radio reveals and, at 13, received a expertise contest on the Kiwanis Music Competition held at Toronto’s Massey Corridor.
Mr. Lightfoot studied at Westlake School of Music in Los Angeles and returned to Canada, showing with a song-and-dance troupe on the CBC-TV present “Nation Hoedown,” the place he was nicknamed Gord Leadfoot due to his less-than-elegant dancing type. A fellow performer joined Mr. Lightfoot to kind a folks duo, the Two Tones, and minimize a dwell album in 1962, “Two Tones on the Village Nook.”
Mr. Lightfoot moved to Britain, the place he hosted a BBC nation music telecast. The surge in folks music with a political edge within the Nineteen Sixties, led by performers corresponding to Dylan and Tom Paxton, introduced Mr. Lightfoot again to the US.
In 1965, he appeared on the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island and shortly signed with supervisor Albert Grossman, who additionally represented Dylan and Peter, Paul and Mary. He recorded his first solo album, “Lightfoot!,” in 1966. He later wrote songs in regards to the 1967 Detroit riots (“Black Day in July”), whale searching and air pollution — though he mentioned he didn’t see himself as a protest singer.
“I simply need to retain my youthful outlook in every thing — not develop previous, congeal,” he instructed The Washington Submit in 1974. “Keep curious, questioning.”
At his dwelling in Toronto, Mr. Lightfoot had a placard saying: Anger can kill you. It was, he mentioned, a reminder of his previous abuses with alcohol that introduced on temper swings. “I need to keep blissful,” he instructed the CBC in 2019.
Mr. Lightfoot’s marriages to Brita Olaisson and Elizabeth Moon led to divorce. Survivors embrace his spouse of 9 years, Kim Hasse; two kids from his first marriage; two kids from his second marriage; two sons from different relationships; and a number of other grandchildren.
Mr. Lightfoot described himself as a songwriter all the time searching for the “good poem.”
“It’s laborious in your thoughts, and it takes a toll in your nerves,” he instructed the CBC. “And also you obsess over it. You’re pushed to it.”