I loved Gordon Lightfoot’s music as a teen. I played it on my guitar, knew the words to many of his songs by memory, and remember how terribly excited I was to attend his show at the Centennial Concert Hall in Winnipeg in 1969.
The great Canadian singer died on Monday.
Driving out to see friends at their cottage yesterday my husband Dave and I decided to play Gordon Lightfoot songs on the road in his honour.
I had lots of Gordon Lightfoot tunes saved in my music library so I was going to skip over some of the ones that weren’t my favourites to be sure we’d have time to hear songs I love like Pussy Willows Cattails and If You Could Read My Mind before we reached our destination.
Dave however insisted that as a sign of respect for the talent of Gordon Lightfoot we had to listen to each song in order and not leave any out.
I was glad we got to listen to The Pony Man. When I taught elementary school I found this illustrated children’s book about the song and it inspired me to have my students create a book of their own. First I printed out the words to The Pony Man for the kids and we learned to sing all the verses. I played the guitar.
Then I divided up the lines to the song and each child in the class would illustrate a line and I’d collate them to make our own class book of The Pony Man. I did this every year for over a decade. I wish I’d kept those class Pony Man books or at least some of the kids’ marvellous drawings.
When I taught my middle- school students about the Great Lakes we listened to Gordon sing The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald and looked at the book The Gulls of the Edmund Fitzgerald. It tells the story of the sinking of a Great Lakes freighter in Lake Superior in 1975.
With my high school students I discussed Gordon’s song The Canadian Railroad Trilogy which chronicles the building of the Canadian Pacific Railroad.
A Gordon Lightfoot song that has special meaning for my husband Dave is Black Day in July from the album Did She Mention My Name. The song is about the race riots in Detroit in 1967. People died and thousands of buildings were burned.
Dave’s family had a farm just across the border from Detroit and when they were working out in their tomato fields in July of 1967 they could see the smoke from the burning buildings billowing in the sky.
Many people have their own personal memories and experiences that link their lives in some way to the music of Gordon Lightfoot.
It’s why his music was so popular and the announcement of his death has had an impact on so many Canadians.
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