By Karen Bliss
Gordon Lightfoot, one of Canada’s most revered songwriters whose songs have been covered by everyone from Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash to Barbra Streisand and The Grateful Dead, died peacefully May 1 at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital of natural causes, his family confirmed in a statement. He was 84.
The Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee and Honorary Co-President, who penned such enduring masterpieces as “If You Could Read My Mind,” “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” “Beautiful,” “Sundown” and “Early Morning Rain,” was a Companion of the Order of Canada, Governor General’s Award recipient, Canadian Country Music Hall Of Fame inductee, 12-time JUNO Award winner and four-time GRAMMY nominee.
The folk legend was held to the highest esteem by other music legends. Bob Dylan, who inducted him into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1986 at the Juno Awards, has called him a mentor, famously noting “I can’t think of any [of his songs] I don’t like.”
Born in Orillia, Ontario, Lightfoot’s importance to Canada’s cultural fabric was highlighted last night by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau statement on his death: “We have lost one of our greatest singer-songwriters. 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.”
Lightfoot toured into his 80s, and was the obvious choice to both close and open the historic Toronto theatre Massey Hall for its renovation — a venue at which he had performed more than any other artist. He was till performing shows last year, such as the packed CNE Bandshell, where he first played in 1970.
In April, Lightfoot cancelled all U.S. and Canadian dates for 2023, due to “some health related issues.”
He is survived by his wife Kim Hasse, children Fred, Ingrid, Eric, Galen, Miles and Meredith, and several grandchildren.
The Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame offers its sincerest condolences to Gordon Lightfoot’s family, friends, loved ones, and fans all over the world.