Singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot performs at the Grammy Museum in Los… (Mark Sullivan / WireImage )
Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot stopped in at the Grammy Museum on Thursday as part of a brief West Coast tour marking his 50th anniversary as a recording artist, engaging in a Q&A session before performing for about 45 minutes before a sold-out audience of 200. He also plays March 22 at the City National Grove in Anaheim.
The 74-year-old artist talked about his legacy as a songwriter -- “I’ve never heard a cover version of one of my songs that I didn’t like,” he said diplomatically to interviewer Scott Goldman of the Grammy Foundation. A prolific and much covered songwriter during the 1960s and 1970s, Lightfoot has had songs recorded by Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand, Bob Dylan, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Peter, Paul & Mary and scores of others.
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Asked to name his favorite, Lightfoot cited Presley’s version of “Early Morning Rain,” a song he told the crowd he wrote while living briefly in Los Angeles in 1958 to study jazz at the now-defunct Westlake College of Music in Hollywood.
“It was about going out and watching the planes take off and land at LAX,” Lightfoot said. “At that time, you could go right out onto the runways.”
He also noted changes he made to two of his most famous songs -- “If You Could Read My Mind” and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” -- after they’d become major pop hits.
His daughter, he said, pointed out that a line in “If You Could Read my Mind,” written about the dissolution of his first marriage, would be more honest if he changed “you” to “we” in the line “I’m just trying to understand the feelings you lack.” He said he’s subsequently always sung it as “we,” as he did Thursday night.
He also altered a line in the historically based ballad about the sinking of the freighter Edmund Fitzgerald after subsequent investigations altered conclusions about what caused it to go down during a winter storm in Lake Superior in 1975, killing all 29 crew members. Lightfoot’s song reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 just nine months after the incident.
Fans chuckled when Lightfoot stuck out his tongue and offered a sour expression when talking about his early hit “For Lovin’ Me,” covered by Peter, Paul & Mary and others, saying he disliked the catty attitude he expressed in that song.
Lightfoot has never won a Grammy Award, but he has collected 16 Juno Awards, Canada’s equivalent of the Grammy. He also was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1986 by longtime Lightfoot fan Bob Dylan, who once said, “Every time I hear a song of his, it's like I wish it would last forever.”
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