Childhood & Early Life
Gordon Lightfoot was born on November 17, 1938 in Orillia, Ontario, to Gordon Lightfoot Sr. and Jessica Lightfoot. His evident singing skills were observed and recognized by his mother, who encouraged him to perform in public.
He performed regularly at school. He was also involved in the St. Paul’s United Church choir under Ray Williams, his first mentor and inspiration. He used to perform regularly at high school in Orillia District Collegiate and Vocational Institute.
He also learnt to play the piano, folk guitar, drums and percussions. He made his first local appearance at Massey Hall and then began performing in concerts across the district.
Apart from music, Gordon was a natural athlete and took part in competitive shot put, pole vault, and football. His multifaceted abilities won him scholarships at McGill University’s School of Music and University of Toronto.
In 1958, he moved to California to study at Westlake College of Music. He also worked on jingles and advertisements to support himself financially. He returneds to Toronto in 1960.
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On his return to his hometown, Gordon Lightfoot performed across local cafes along with ‘The Swinging Eight’, a locally famous band. He also teamed up with Gino Silvi Singers. His popularity grew progressively and he released two singles in 1962.
His singles ‘I’m the One’ and ‘It’s Too Late, He Wins’ became popular locally and were played on the radio. He later teamedup with Terry Whelan and recorded a live album ‘Two-Tones at the Village Corner’ in 1962.
He start touring in Europe and the UK in 1963. He hosted BBC’s ‘Country and Western Show’. He was next seen at the Mariposa Folk Festival in 1964 and developed a reputation as a songwriter. Many popular artists, including Elvis Presley and Marty Robbins, sang songs written by Gordon.
He signed a recording deal with United Artists and choose Albert Grossman to represent him in 1965. His debut album was released in the next year and was titled ‘Lightfoot!’. The album was a huge hit and earned him several accolades.
He was commissioned by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to write a special broadcast in 1967.
In the upcoming years, he recorded four albums: ‘The Way I Feel’ (1967), ‘Did She Mention My Name?’ (1968), ‘Back Here on Earth’ (1968)’, and ‘Sunday Concert’ (1969) under United Artists. Several songs from these albums went on to rank highly in the Canadian charts.
After a fallout with United Artists, he signed a recording deal with Warner Bros. In 1971, he release his single ‘If You Could Read My Mind’, which became a hit internationally. The song was awarded a gold disc.
After signing with Warner Bros., Lightfoot’s frequency of international tours increased. He performed in New York City, Europe, and Australia.
He had a successful career with Warner Bros., with several hit albums. These included ‘Summer Side of Life’ (1971), ‘Don Quixote’ (1972), ‘Old Dan’s Records’ (1972), ‘Sundown’ (1974), ‘Cold on the Shoulder’ (1975), ‘Summertime Dream’ (1976), and ‘Endless Wire’ (1978).
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He contracted Bell’s Palsy in 1972, which posed a problem for his tours. But Lightfoot continued to produce music at the same rate.
He continued his association with Warner Bros. into the 1980s and 1990s. His original albums include ‘Dream Street Rose’ (1980), ‘Shadows’ (1982), ‘Salute’ (1983), ‘East of Midnight’ (1986), ‘Waiting for You’ (1993), and ‘A Painter Passing Through’ (1998).
In 2000, he performed at a concert at Nevada and it was broadcasted live by the CBC and the PBS. In the following year, he gave a closing performance at the Tin Pan South Legends concert at Ryman Auditorium.
In 2002, he had to undergo a surgery for his stomach and remained in critical care. His health did not improve until the end of the year. He stayed at home to recuperate and missed his tours and concerts.
He signed up with Linus Entertainment in 2003 and released his new album, ‘Harmony’, in 2004. This was his first album after recovering from his sickness.
In 2004, he returned to the stage and perform at Mariposa, Peterborough, and Hamilton. These shows were a huge hit.
In 2006, he suffered a minor stroke, which caused damage to his fingers. He used a substitute guitarist but eventually gained control and dexterity to return playing the guitar himself.
Despite his deteriorating health and age, he continued to performing several times a year. In 2012, he performed at the National Arts Center in Ottawa and at the 100th Grey Cup.
He toured United Kingdom in 2015, visiting Ireland and Scotland as well. His shows were sold out throughout his tours.
He was invited to play on Parliament Hill in 2017 by the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. This was in celebration of Canada’s 150th celebrations.
He remains Canada’s greatest singer-songwriter today. He has been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame, and Canada's Walk of Fame. He was also awarded with the highest civilian honor of Companion of the Order of Canada.