Photo Credit: VanIsle.News staff

Gone, But Never Forgotten

Gordon Lightfoot received the Order of Canada and was inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame and the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

Canada’s greatest songwriter, Gordon Lightfoot, passed away at the age of 84.

Gordon Lightfoot is a Canadian singer-songwriter known for his folk and country music. He is often referred to as Canada’s greatest songwriter, and rightfully so.

He has released numerous albums and is best known for his hits such as “If You Could Read My Mind,” “Sundown,” and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”

His music often focuses on Canadian history and landscapes. He has been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honour.

Unfortunately, the Canadian legend passed away on May 1, 2023, at the Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto. After 84 incredible years of life, Lightfoot died of natural causes.

gordon lightfoot playing the guitar during a performance
Lightfoot performing at the Interlochen, Michigan, in 2009 | Photo by Arnielee

Throughout his career, Lightfoot overcome many health issues, including Bell’s palsy. Just before his concert in Orillia in 2002, Lightfoot was taken to the hospital for a ruptured artery in his stomach.

But after several operations and a six-week coma, Lightfoot came out on top. He spent three months in the hospital before returning to the stage at the Mariposa Festival in 2004.

In the same year, Lightfoot also released the Harmony album. However, in 2006, he suffered a minor stroke during a performance. This left him without the use of some of the fingers in his right hand.

Lightfoot overcame many health scares, but nothing was as scary as a death hoax circulating in 2010.

On February 18, 2010, a Twitter post from then-CanWest journalist David Akin claimed Lightfoot was dead. Akin received his information from Ronnie Hawkins, who was punked by a prankster claiming to be Lightfoot’s grandson.

“I was quite surprised to hear it myself driving to my office…I haven’t had so much airplay for weeks,” Lightfoot jokingly told CP24 following the hoax.

Remembering Lightfoot With A Heavy Heart

This time around, Lightfoot’s passing is no hoax. Musicians around the world are now paying their respects to Canada’s legendary icon.

“We have lost one of our greatest singer-songwriters…Gordon Lightfoot captured our country’s spirit in his music – and in doing so, he helped shape Canada’s soundscape,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a Twitter post.

Fellow musician Anne Murray told the Globe and Mail, “It seems that he wanted to perform until the end, and he did.” Murray retired at 40, but Lightfoot never let his age stop him.

a statue erected in orillia in honor or gordon lightfoot that features the artist with a laurel of leaves above him
A statue erected in Orillia in honour of Gordon Lightfoot | Timothy P. Schmalz

The City of Orillia, where Lightfoot grew up, has lowered its flags to half-mast, and books of condolences have been set up in remembrance.

“His deep roots in our city are woven into the fabric of Orillia with tributes from the Gordon Lightfoot auditorium stage and his bust at our iconic Orillia Opera House, to the Lightfoot Trail and the Golden Leaves,” commented Orillia Mayor Don McIsaac.

The last song Lightfoot performed before his passing was “Rainy Day People” at Club Regent Casino in Winnipeg on October 30, 2022.

Not long after his passing, Lightfoot’s hit songs “If You Could Read My Mind, “Sundown,” The Wreck of Edmund Fitzgerald,” and “Carefree Highway” rose to the top four spots of the iTunes Song Chart in the United States.

According to superfan Charlene Westbrook, Lightfoot wanted to have his song “A Passing Ship” play at his funeral.

We have lost a one-of-a-kind legend who gave his music to the world. Fans will grieve, but we will remember that small-town boy who grew up to be Gordon Lightfoot,” Westbrook told the Globe and Mail.

While Lightfoot’s passing is tragic, there’s no doubt the legendary musician would want his life to be celebrated. We are rainy-day people, so let’s rise above this sorrow.