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Gordon Lightfoot, Canadian Folk Singer, Dies at 84

May 2, 2023

TORONTO — Gordon Lightfoot, the Canadian folk singer-songwriter known for “If You Could Read My Mind” died Monday. He was 84.

Lightfoot’s representative Victoria Lord said the musician died at a Toronto hospital. His cause of death was not disclosed.

A product of Toronto’s Yorkville folk club scene in the 1960s, Lightfoot recorded 20 studio albums and wrote hundreds of songs, including “Carefree Highway,” “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” and many other popular tunes.

Lightfoot garnered five Grammy nominations in the 1970s, along with three platinum records and nine gold records for albums and singles. He performed in well over 1,500 concerts and recorded 500 songs.

Lightfoot was born in Orillia, Ontario, on November 17, 1938 to Jessie Vick Trill Lightfoot and Gordon Lightfoot Sr. who owned a dry cleaning business. He was of Scottish descent. His mother recognized Lightfoot's musical talent early on and helped train him to become a successful child performer. He first performed publicly in fourth grade, singing the Irish-American lullaby "Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral", which was broadcast over his school's public address system.

As a boy, he sang in the Orillia's St. Paul's United Church choir. According to Lightfoot, Williams taught him how to sing with emotion and how to have confidence in his voice. Lightfoot was a male soprano and he appeared periodically on local Orillia radio, performing in local operettas and oratorios, and gained exposure through various Kiwanis music festivals. At the age of twelve, after winning a competition for boys whose voices had not yet changed, he made his first appearance at Massey Hall in Toronto, where he would ultimately play over 170 more times throughout his career.

He toured late into his life. Just last month he canceled upcoming U.S. and Canadian shows, citing health issues.


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