Born: 1938, Orillia, Ontario
- Canadian Music Hall of Fame (1986)
- Canada Walk of Fame (1998)
- Four Juno Awards for Male Vocalist of the Year (1971, 72, 73, and 75)
- Cited as Canada’s male artist of the 1970s by the Canadian Recording Industry Association (1980)
- 20 Top 30, 10 Top 10, and 3 #1 Singles in Canada
- 14 Top 30, 8 Top 10, and 3 #1 Original Studio Albums in Canada
- 3rd biggest song of the year in Canada
- #1 Hit in the U.S.
Other #1 Hits:
- “If You Could Read My Mind” (1971)
- “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” (1976)
Some Other Hits:
- “Remember I’m The One” (1962)
- “I’m Not Sayin’” (1965)
- “Spin Spin” (1966)
- “Go Go Round” (1967)
- “Talking in Your Sleep” (1971)
- “Summer Side of Life” (1971)
- “Beautiful” (1972)
- “You Are What I Am” (1972)
- “Carefree Highway” (1974)
- “Rainy Day People” (1975)
- “The Circle is Small” (1978)
Gordon Lightfoot was perhaps the most significant Canadian male singer of the 1970s. He won Junos for Male Vocalist of the Year four times that decade. Six of his songs made the yearly Top 100, a feat which only The Guess Who matched. One of those songs—”Sundown”—finished as the 3rd biggest song of the year 1974. Three of his original studio albums topped the charts that decade, and an additional four made the Top 3. But the man started out in the early 60s with a couple of major domestic hits.
Lightfoot began singing as a boy soprano in his church choir, then on local radio stations and finally in Kiwanis festivals. When a teenager he learned piano, drums, and guitar, sang in a barbershop quartet, and became an accomplished high school athlete. After high school, he moved to Los Angeles (1957-8) to study jazz composition. To support himself, he wrote, arranged, and produced commercial jingles.
He returned to Canada performing with CBC TV’s choral / dance group The Swinging Eight. He took a liking to folk music and began performing in Toronto cafés. In 1962, he released a couple of singles, one of which did very well—”Remember I’m the One”. In ’63 he went to Britain to host BBC TVs “Country and Western Show”. He became highly regarded as a composer and many acts began performing his songs, like Marty Robbins, Harry Belafonte, and Elvis Presley. Lightfoot’s “For Lovin’ Me” became a hit for Peter, Paul and Mary.
He signed a recording contract with United Artists in 1965 and released “I’m Not Sayin’”. He made appearances at major folk festivals and The Tonight Show and released his debut album—Lightfoot!—the following year including classics like “For Lovin’ Me” and “Early Mornin’ Rain”. He released three more albums in the 60s (plus a live album) and had a few hits singles domestically. Outside of Canada, he was known better as a songwriter. But all that changed in 1970, when, he, now with Warner Bros., released the album Sit Down Young Stranger and its single “If You Could Read My Mind”. The album went to #12 on the Billboard Charts. The single went to #5 in the U.S., #1 in Canada, and managed to crack the Top 30 in Britain.
He continued churning out hits, his biggest coming in 1974. The album and the single of the same name (Sundown) both topped the charts in the U.S. as well as Canada where it finished as the 3rd biggest song of the year. It was his first of two platinum original studio albums in the States. His second was 1976′s Summertime Dream (also going platinum in Canada). Its single “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” became Lightfoot’s second biggest hit, topping the charts in Canada and reaching #2 on the Billboard charts. His last Top 10 hit in Canada came the following year: “The Circle is Small” but his albums continued to do well. His 1993 work Waiting for You made the Top 30 in Canada. In the 1980s, he averaged 40 to 50 concerts a year. In the 90s, touring more than recording, he gave 60 to 70 concerts per year.
Gordon Lightfoot never won a Grammy Award but was nominated four times. Other artists who have recorded Lightfoot’s songs include Bob Dylan, Ian & Sylvia, Glen Campbell, Anne Murray, Nana Mouskouri, Johnny Cash, Johnny Mathis, John Mellencamp, and Barbra Streisand. Fellow Canadian Robbie Robertson of The Band declared that Lightfoot was one of his “favourite Canadian songwriters and is absolutely a national treasure.”