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Celebrating Gordon Lightfoot


Thanks to all who have been in touch to share memories and musical requests following the death of Gordon Lightfoot. So many of us grew up listening to his music and hearing him play at concerts and festivals.

Born in Orillia, Ontario in 1938, Lightfoot was a self-taught musician who played piano, drums, and guitar. It was in the 1960s that he honed his craft as a songwriter. He was known for songs such “For Lovin’ Me,” “Early Mornin’ Rain,” and “Steel Rail Blues,” and the CBC commissioned him to write the “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” for a special broadcast in Canada’s centennial year in 1967.

He had international success, but is best known and most beloved in Canada. He won sixteen JUNO Awards, and Bob Dylan inducted him into The Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1986. He was a Companion of the Order of Canada, and he was featured on a Canadian postage stamp in 2007. He was prolific, but he remained humble, wondering aloud how some of his songs became hits. “I never believed—or knew for sure—if I would be able to make a professional life in music. But it turned out that way,” he said in a 2015 interview.

You’re sure to hear some Lightfoot tunes on CKUA over the coming days and weeks. As host Tony King remarked, “Gordon Lightfoot was in the stratosphere like Joni and Leonard. A talent that supersedes any logical explanation.”

Folk Routes host Tom Coxworth was born in the same Ontario town as Gordon Lightfoot, and he says simply, “When it comes to music, he was my North Star. He was everywhere, and was the first person to play folk music as I now know it. He’s always been influential in what I do today.”

If the rest of us are fans, Amy van Keeken might be the truest “superfan.” She often chooses a Gordon Lightfoot tune to share during Far Out, in a segment she calls “Gord’s Gold.” Her whole program on May 10 will be dedicated to Gordon Lightfoot.

Gordon signs an album for Amy, 2014

She says, “From singing along with my dad singing Gordon Lightfoot songs around the campfire to listening to Gord’s Gold on family trips, Gordon Lightfoot has been a part of my life since I was born. Dad and I have been to many concerts together and I have a group of pals who love Gord as much as I do, and we often share our current favourite Gord tunes via text. I once even started a ‘Gordon Lightfoot Appreciation Club, Northern Alberta Chapter’ and hosted a get-together where my dad played a set of Gord songs and we listened to records and had a party. His catalogue is so vast and so unique that I am STILL discovering deep cuts and hidden gems that blow my mind. I once was fortunate to have a meet-and-greet with Gord after a concert and I gave him my band’s (The Secretaries) 7-inch, the A side of which was our cover of ‘The Way I Feel.’ His handlers were trying to hurry me along, but Gord graciously shooed them away and let me visit as long as I wanted. So grateful for that experience! Thank you for the songs, the melodies, the stories, the feelings. Thank you for everything. I love you, Gord.”

Tune in May 10, from 6pm-8pm for  Far Out with host Amy van Keeken for an all Gord episode. Requests and guests, including a visit from Alberta artist Sammy Volkov.

In case you missed it, be sure to check out these programs from last week that celebrated the life of Gordon Lightfoot:

This Music Changed My Life with host Shayne Giles. Available OnDemand until May 12.

Mulligan Stew with host Terry David Mulligan, in a conversation with Bruce Cockburn and Bernie Finkelstein. Available OnDemand until May 12.

Folk Routes with host Tom Coxworth. Available OnDemand until May 13.

Roy’s Record Room with host Roy Forbes. Available OnDemand until May 13.