Gordon Lightfoot songs: Canadian country musician's greatest hits including Sundown and Carefree Highway

Iconic folk singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot died in Canada aged 84, his representative has confirmed

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Canadian musician Gordon Lightfoot, known for his nostalgic, ruminative tracks, died on 1 May, at a Toronto hospital, aged 84 - his cause of death has not yet been confirmed. 

Lightfoot became a big name in the North American country music scene in the 1960s and ‘70s - he was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1986. Over his long career, he recorded 20 studio albums and wrote hundreds of classic songs.

News of Lightfoot’s death has left many fans devastated, and tributes have poured in - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shared his sadness at the performer’s death, tweeting: “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. May his music continue to inspire future generations, and may his legacy live on forever.”

Meanwhile, American horror writer Stephen King posted: “Gordon Lightfoot has died. He was a great songwriter and a wonderful performer. Sundown, you better take care/If I catch you creepin’ ‘round my back stairs."

Following the sad news of the Canadian legend’s death, we look back at some of the greatest songs from Gordon Lightfoot’s career:

Gordon Lightfoot died on 2 May, aged 84Gordon Lightfoot died on 2 May, aged 84
Gordon Lightfoot died on 2 May, aged 84

What songs was Gordon Lightfoot best known for?

His most streamed song on Spotify is Sundown, which has more than 98 million streams. The song is a tragic refrain about a man’s addictions, one to an unfaithful lover, and the other to alcohol. The song had been inspired by Cathy Smith, who he had dated in the early ‘70s - in 1982 Smith served 15 months in prison for injecting the comedian with a fatal speedball (cocaine and heroin).

If You Could Read My Mind is another of Lightfoot’s most well-known songs, with 93 million Spotify streams. The 1969 tune is one of his most personal songs, it was a reflection on the artist’s disintegrating marriage to his first wife, Brita Ingegerd Olaisson, the mother to two of his children. The pair eventually divorced in 1973 - Lightfoot’s time spent touring, and his infidelity during these periods was a factor in the breakdown of his marriage. 

Gordon Lightfoot was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2012Gordon Lightfoot was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2012
Gordon Lightfoot was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2012

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald recounts the final voyage of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, a freighter that sank in Lake Superior in 1975, with the loss of the entire 29-man crew - it remains the largest ship to have sunk in the Great Lakes. The record was released in 1976 but written before the wreck was found.

Early Morning Rain is another of Lightfoot’s classics, first released on his debut album Lightfoot! It was inspired by a stay in Los Angeles which left Lightfoot feeling homesick. The song reminisces about him watching planes approaching Los Angeles airport on rainy days. 

Another of Lightfoot’s greatest songs is Carefree Highway - the title comes from a section of Arizona State Route 74 in north Phoenix - it is a metaphor for a state of mind where the singer escapes into to forget about a long ago failed love affair. According to Lightfoot, the song was inspired by a real romance he had when he was 22.

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