Folk-pop legend Gordon Lightfoot dead at 84
Folk-pop legend Gordon Lightfoot has died aged 84.
The seminal Canadian artist – who is best known for the hits ‘If You Could Read My Mind’ and ‘The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald’ – passed away at a Toronto hospital on Monday evening (01.05.23), his publicist Victoria Lord confirmed.
His death comes after his declining health caused him to axe his tour three weeks earlier.
No cause of death was given.
However, the guitarist suffered from Bell’s palsy and was once placed in a coma in 2002 after an artery in his stomach ruptured.
Adored by music legends, including Bob Dylan, Lightfoot’s songs were covered by the likes of Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand, Johnny Cash, and even punk rockers Jane’s Addiction.
Fellow Canadian Bryan Adams has led tributes to the man who pioneered the folk-pop sound of the 1960s and 1970s.
He wrote Instagram alongside a picture with his idol: “This one is really hard to write. Once in a blue moon you get to work and hang out with one of the people you admired when you were growing up. I was lucky enough to say Gordon was my friend and I’m gutted to know he’s gone. The world is a lesser place without him. I know I speak for all Canadians when I say: thank you for the songs Gordon Lightfoot. Bless your sweet songwriting heart, RIP dear friend.”
Dylan once said: “I can’t think of any Gordon Lightfoot song I don’t like. Every time I hear a song of his, it’s like I wish it would last forever … Lightfoot became a mentor for a long time. I think he probably still is to this day.”
He started his career singing in the church choir and had set his sights on jazz.
After moving to Hollywood to study music, Lightfoot decided it wasn’t for him, and upon returning to his home city, he played a few local gigs before landing his first hit in Canada with ‘I’m Not Sayin’.
During his career, he has earned five Grammys and 17 Junos, the Canadian equivalent of the former.
He was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.
In 1986, he hit the headlines when he sued Whitney Houston’s producer and songwriter for lifting 24 bars from ‘If You Could Read My Mind’ for her 1985 cover of George Benson’s ‘The Greatest Love of All’.
However, he withdrew the lawsuit because he didn’t want it to impact on her health.
He later told Alabama.com: “I let it go because I understood that it was affecting Whitney Houston, who had an appearance coming up at the Grammy Awards, and the suit wasn’t anything to do with her.”
Lightfoot was married three times, however, his infidelity, which he blamed on touring and having to be long-distance, meant relationships were difficult.
He also battled severe alcoholism.
The musician was married to his third wife, Kim Hasse, since December 19, 2014.
Lightfoot had six children.