In the first Sunday Morning Music post of 2018, I brought you a number of Gordon Lightfoot‘s nautical-themed songs. This remarkable musician has produced an immense body of work. Today I’d like to look at some of his more meditative songs, music that makes you think – meditations in poetic form, set to music, if you will. They’re haunting melodies that stay with you.
To start, here’s one of his most popular songs, “If You Could Read My Mind”.
This next song, “Circle Of Steel”, is particularly poignant to me, because as a pastor and prison chaplain I’ve worked with people like the woman he describes. It’s a grim, gritty world for them, and there’s often only cold comfort to be had. This song hurts to hear, sometimes.
One of Gordon Lightfoot’s most popular songs is “Minstrel Of The Dawn”. Here’s a live performance from a BBC concert in England in 1972.
Forty years later, in 2012, Gordon gave this live performance of another of his great songs, “Don Quixote”, in Reno, Nevada. I prefer the earlier versions of this song, because I remember his younger voice and style, but I’m including this one to show that even in old age, he still has the magic touch. It’s remarkable for any singer’s voice to last this long and this well.
Let’s close with one of Gordon’s songs that’s particularly close to my heart: “Cherokee Bend”. It tells of racial conflict, hatred and bitterness in the “bad old days” of conflict between white settlers and Native American tribes. The theme is of enduring meaning to me, thanks to my own experience of such racial conflict in Africa, which has shaped and formed my life like no other influence. I used to play this song to some of my friends (of all races) in South Africa, to try to show them that our clashes were merely another aspect of a struggle that’s been fought all over the world from time immemorial. Some found that helpful; others, merely depressing. Nevertheless, I think Gordon captured the essence of what such conflict means to the innocent (particularly children) who are caught up in it, and how it scars them.
We’ll return to Gordon Lightfoot’s music later in the year.
Thanks, Peter. Gordon Lightfoot is one of the best songwriters to ever hold a guitar. He has been one of my favorite singers since I first heard him.