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Sundown ( Gordon Lightfoot Cover ) 07.14.11

I was an 8 year old boy when I first heard the Gordon Lightfoot song Sundown on the radio. I was immediately drawn to the harmonies, but I was far too young to understand the exact nature of the lyric until much later. The chorus was so catchy though, it was impossible not to sing along to the song.

I loved so many Gord songs in the 1970s: Carefree Highway, If You Could Read My Mind, The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald, Daylight Katy, Baby Step Back. I could go on. I also really liked his 1983 song, Salute (A Lot More Livin’ To Do). When I was a teenager, I remember watching him perform that song on the American show, Solid Gold.

I have a couple of great Gordon Lightfoot memories.

When I was working in the communications department of the Toronto International Film Festival in 1995, I was working publicity for a documentary called Nico Icon, directed by Susanne Ofteringer, about the legendary Velvet Underground singer. Some found footage included a 1965 Andrew Loog Oldham-produced promotional music video for Nico‘s version of the Gordon Lightfoot-penned tune, I’m Not Sayin’. Thinking Lightfoot might take an interest in seeing the film, I called his management company to offer him a couple of tickets to the public screening of the documentary. According to Barry Harvey, Lightfoot’s late, great manager at the time, Gord was sequestered at his cottage in Orillia, working on a new album, so he was unable to make the screening. Harvey thanked me though, and insisted that the next time Gordon was playing Toronto’s legendary Massey Hall, I call the office and I would be furnished with tickets. I actually took advantage of this opportunity three years later when Lightfoot was indeed playing his annual spring shows in town (I think he was on his A Painter Passing Through tour), and was shocked when I picked up my tickets. They gave me first row centre. What an amazing gift, and Gordon and his band put on a sensational show. A memory I won’t soon forget.

But there was another time I may or may not have experienced a brief exchange with Gordon Lightfoot. In 1996, I used to visit a Brian Wilson fan website, called Cabinessence. You had to register to be able to use the communications forum. Someone chose the username “Gordon Lightfoot.” At first I just assumed that it was fake, but I nevertheless took the opportunity to say hello to this person. What happened after that surprised me. Whoever it was writing on the other side, talked about what a big fan he was of Brian Wilson’s work, pre and post-Pet Sounds, and how he tried to use some of the dense chord patterns Brian used, but found that it didn’t work with the kind of music he was writing. It sounded like a composer explaining his process. I saved the chats. Maybe it was Gord. Maybe it wasn’t. But I remember enjoying the exchange of musical thought.