Canadian folk icon Gordon Lightfoot — arguably one of the greatest songwriters our country ever gave to the world — died Monday night at the age of 84, according to his tour publicist.
The Orillia,Lightfoot, known for such hits as The Wreck of Edmund Fitzgerald and dozens more dating back to the ‘60s, had recently cancelled all of his North American tour dates due to “health issues” that weren’t specified.
The publicist would only say he died of natural causes at Sunnybrook Hospital.
Lightfoot’s family released an official statement late Monday night.
“It is with profound sadness that we confirm that Gordon Meredith Lightfoot has passed away. Gordon died peacefully on Monday, May 1, 2023 at 7:30 p.m. at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto. He died of natural causes. He was 84 years old.”
Lightfoot, who lived in a mansion in Toronto’s Bridle Path with his third wife Kim Hasse, had been a rigorous health nut (aside from smoking) for the last two decades with daily workouts since recovering from a September 2002 stomach aneurysm in Orillia while preparing for the second show of a two-night stand there.
He is survived by his wife, six children — Fred, Ingrid, Eric, Galen, Miles and Meredith — as well as several grandchildren.
In my last interview with Lightfoot in December 2022, he said his entire career was launched by fellow Canadian singer-songwriter Ian Tyson, who died last year at the age of 89 in Alberta, when Ian and Sylvia covered his tune, Early Mornin’ Rain.
“He was the first person to record a Gordon Lightfoot song and that was Early Mornin’ Rain,” Lightfoot told me.
“The next thing I knew I was getting launched into the music business. I’ve always been eternally grateful to (then folk duo) Ian & Sylvia for getting me started in this business.”
Lightfoot, who was subsequently signed by A-list manager Albert Grossman, whose stable of talent included Bob Dylan, first saw Tyson, the composer of the Canadian folk classic Four Strong Winds, performing in Toronto’s then-vibrant Yorkville folk scene in the early 60s which Lightfoot also frequented.
Other Lightfoot-penned Canadian folk classics included Carefree Highway, Sundown, 14 Karat Gold, Beautiful, Baby Step Back, and If You Could Read My Mind.
Lightfoot’s songs were covered by dozens if not hundreds of artists — everyone from Elvis Presley to Dylan.
Along the way he got married three times and had a half-dozen children and was even the subject of a 2010 death hoax.
I last saw Lightfoot perform on Nov. 26, 2021, during the second of a three-night stand at Massey Hall, which had been recently renovated and was nicknamed “Gord’s room” long ago because he played there so often.
Lightfoot had been the last performer at the venue in July 2018 and before his first show on Nov. 25, 2021, he received the key to the city on the newly christened Allan Slaight stage commemorating the troubadour’s 170th performance at the venue.
“It was an emotional experience for which I am deeply honoured,” tweeted Lightfoot afterwards.
The singer-songwriter and his four-man band delivered an efficient 70-minute set consisting of just 15 songs after he broke his wrist that August during fall at home.
He told me in an November 2021 interview promoting the Massey Hall gigs: “It became my place for me to worship the crowd. Not for them to worship me.”