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Canadian folk music icon Gordon Lightfoot dies aged 84

Gordon Lightfoot has died aged 84
Gordon Lightfoot has died aged 84 Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By David MouriquandAgencies
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Considered Canada's "poet laureate", Gordon Lightfoot was one of the country's most celebrated and decorated musicians.


Prolific Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot, known for the folk-pop hits as 'If You Could Read My Mind', 'Early Morning Rain' and 'The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald', has died aged 84.

His family said in a statement released by publicist Victoria Lord that Lightfoot died of natural causes.

Lightfoot, born in Ontario, made his performing debut in 1943, at the age of five, singing 'I'm A Little Teapot' at a local church Sunday school. He later found himself immersed in the Canadian and American folk scene, amid contemporaries like Joni Mitchell and Neil Young.

The songwriter’s 1976 epic, 'The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald', about the drowning of 29 sailors when a freighter sank in a storm on Lake Superior, remains one of his most loved songs.

While he is known as a folk-pop star of the late 20th century, Lightfoot's popularity meant he was touring internationally until just last month.

In April, the singer cancelled his 2023 tour dates, citing unspecified health issues.

Lightfoot's songs - dealing with everything from a failed marriage to the beauty of the Canadian countryside - were covered by artists including Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand, Glen Campbell, Harry Belafonte, The Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan.

Dylan once called Lightfoot one of his favourite artists, saying "I can't think of any (songs) I don't like."

AP Photo
Gordon Lightfoot was considered a national treasure in CanadaAP Photo

The singer was often hailed as a modern-day poet in his native Canada.

"He is our poet laureate. He is our iconic singer-songwriter," Geddy Lee, the lead singer of Rock band Rush, told a 2019 documentary about Lightfoot.

His sentiments were echoed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who took to Twitter to say that Canada had lost "one of our greatest singer-songwriters.” Lightfoot "captured our country's spirit in his music - and in doing so, he helped shape Canada's soundscape."

Throughout his career, Lightfoot received an array of tributes recognizing his contribution to Canadian culture, including honorary degrees, a postage stamp and even a guitar created in his name. He won a Governor General's Performing Arts Award in 1997 and was invested as a Companion of the Order of Canada - the order's highest level - in 2003.

He received five Grammy nominations and won 17 Juno Awards (Canada's equivalent music honour) and was inducted into many halls of fame, including the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

Lightfoot is survived by his wife, Kim, six children - Fred, Ingrid, Galen, Eric, Miles and Meredith - and several grandchildren.

Additional sources • AFP, Pitchfork

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