Last week the Wall Street Journal ran Joanne Kaufman’s terrific profile of Gordon Lightfoot (subscribers only). Kaufman introduced Lightfoot as a performer with the kind of square, albeit eccentric, admirers who might have been fans of Lawrence Welk in an earlier era:
In the last week and a half, John Corcoran, an otherwise completely normal-seeming middle-aged guy turned up at nine out of 10 Gordon Lightfoot concerts. The owner of an oil and gas business in Traverse City, Mich., Mr. Corcoran, 52, beamed as the Toronto troubadour performed classic fare like “Beautiful,” “Rainy Day People,” “Carefree Highway” and his signature “If You Could Read My Mind” in Torrington, Conn.; Easton, Harrisburg, Glenside and Wilkes-Barre, Pa.; Sparta and Red Bank, N.J; Peekskill, N.Y., and here in a sold-out gig at the 1,495-seat Town Hall.
Mr. Corcoran’s wife, Peggy, is tolerant. (“She knows Gordon is 68, and he’s not going to be touring much longer. So she says, ‘It’s not heroin, booze or another woman.'”)
His three children are bemused, his friends derisive. “I get unrelenting [abuse] from them. They call me a ‘Lighthead,'” confided Mr. Corcoran, who as an 18-year-old became acquainted with the baritone voice and sugared folk melodies of Mr. Lightfoot and has seen him in concert some 300 times.
“I’m a little nuts. I’m a lot nuts,” he amended as he stood outside Town Hall in a fever of anticipation. “All I know is that in the midst of the madness of this world it’s my therapy. The music touches my heartstrings.”
I identify completely. I’ve been a fan of Lightfoot’s since I was a teenager. I saw him perform at Dartmouth, if I’m not mistaken, in the winter of 1970 right after “Sit Down Young Stranger” had been issued (as it was originally called, before Warners renamed it “If You Could Read My Mind” for obvious reasons). I saw him again a few years back when he came through Minneapolis after the four-disc box set recapping his career was released in 1999. As I approached the cash register to fork over the $50 or so necessary to purchase the box set, the store clerk mockingly struck up an exaggerated version of “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” Fool!
Lightfoot has written many outstanding songs in the course of his career, although the muse seems to have deserted him some time in the early 1980’s. I’d love to continue the discussion with readers weighing in on their favorite Lightfoot songs in the thread on this post over in the Forum. Are there any takers?
To take up Scott’s invitation, go here.
UPDATE: Ed Morrissey continues the discussion here. Thanks to our readers who’ve generously taken up my invitation to comment over at the Forum.