Rainy Day People – Tribute to Gordon Lightfoot

With it raining cats and dogs outside tonight, this title has greater meaning. “Rainy Day People” is not necessarily my favorite Gordon Lightfoot song, but it describes my bride of 27 years. Why you might ask? Here is a glimpse of Lightfoot’s magical pen in this song:

Rainy day people always seem to know when it’s time to call

Rainy day people don’t talk…they just listen til they’ve heard it all

Rainy day lovers don’t lie when they tell you they’ve been down like you

Rainy day people don’t mind if you’re crying a tear or two.

My wife embodies rainy day people. She is a listener who people feel comfortable in being around; comfortable in confiding in. Gordon Lightfoot’s talent and the reason we both love his music is his ability to capture who we are. We saw him perform a few years ago. We enjoyed his music, but also his storytelling between songs. A man who could have many did not seem to have any airs.

His most famous song is “If You Could Read My Mind.” I think even non-Lightfoot fans could sing many of the lyrics of this song. Since it is so popular, I will skip over it to some of his lesser known, but also great songs. Another favorite is “Circle of Steel” because it tells a painful story of an alcoholic mother whose husband is incarcerated and who will lose her child in a week. The gripping, soulful lyrics include:

A child is born to a welfare case…where the rats run around like the own the place

The room is chilly, the building is old….that’s how it goes

A doctor’s found on his welfare round…and he comes and he leaves on the double.

The subject of the song is not heroic, but the words tell a story of how people struggle. Most of us don’t live in gated communities. Life is very hard for many.

For the romantic side in each of us, he write songs like “Beautiful” which has words like:

At times I just don’t know….how you could be anything but beautiful

I think that I was made for you and you were made for me

And I know that I will never change…’cause we’ve been friends through rain or shine

For such a long, long time.

He has written so many songs that were so well-loved others also recorded them. “Early Morning Rain” was sung by Elvis. “For Lovin Me” was sung by Peter, Paul and Mary. He also added a second song to the back of that one as the first part talked disdainfully to a woman scorned when the man said “that’s what you get for lovin me.” The added song he recorded had a lament “Did she mention my name” as the person who scorned his lover was feeling great remorse later on. Other great songs of his include:

“Whisper My Name”

“Sundown”

“The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”

“Carefree Highway”

“Cotton Jenny”

“Old Dan’s Records”

“Summer Side of Life”

“Cold on the Shoulder”

And, countless others, that should not be construed less by my failure to list them. Yet, let me close with a self-portrait of Mr. Lightfoot, at least by my interpretation – “Minstrel of the Dawn.” In it he says:

The minstrel of the dawn is here….to make you laugh and bend your ear

Up the steps you’ll hear him climb….all full of thoughts, all full of rhymes

Listen to the pictures flow….across the room into your mind they go

Listen to the strings…they jangle and dangle…while the old guitar rings.

Words and music. To me this is what it is all about. Gordon Lightfoot would have been an excellent poet without his music. He was lesser known, but may have rivaled even Bob Dylan on his penning of songs. Maybe the fact one was from Canada and the other from Minnesota meant they had time to collect their thoughts when it was too cold to venture outside. Yet, with his music and armed with a better singing voice that Dylan could only dream of, he was the minstrel to all of us.

For our younger readers who may not know him as well, I would encourage you to take a plunge. You can start with the songs above, but that is only sticking a toe in the water. I invite other Gordon Lightfoot fans to offer their favorites whether listed above or not. “If you could read my mind love, what a tale my thoughts would tell….just like a paperback novel, the kind the drugstore sells.”

20 thoughts on “Rainy Day People – Tribute to Gordon Lightfoot

    • Thanks. I love Dylan too. I got in an argument with my brother when I told him Dylan could not sing very well. I kept saying, but I love his lyrics and music, but he was upset with me.

  1. Ahhh, thank you so much for this post, now I’ve got wonderful music running through my head for the day. There is no contest for my favourite GL song, The Canadian Railroad Trilogy. It’s a hard choice for 2nd, that’s fer sure but, as far as hard core, true folk singer/troubadour tradition, CRT tops it.

    If you go to YouTube you’ll get a hit to listen to this epic song, I’d post it but then I’d get sent to the Spam lot…and I suspect most yanks have never heard it…Trust me, you’ll love it.

    Give your brother a smack and tell him there is a difference between singing and just talking the words on beat. I went to a Dylan concert last year and it was like listening to an old man on a MacDonald’s drive-thru speaker…he could have said ‘do you want fries with that’ for all we know cause it was unintelligible the entire time, could only guess along when the song was familiar.

    Also, Dylan never acknowledges the audience. It’s just another day at the office when he’s on stage. Lightfoot, on the other hand, loves to share his music, establish a rapport with his audience and really is the full deal. And he’s still touring! He looks like a guy who’s survived a pretty hard life and, in truth, he has.

    Thanks again for this…

    • Thanks Maureen. I love that song. I should have listed it. Dylan has never appeared to like performing, so when you couple that with a below average voice, it does not bode well to a great concert. With that said, he was a helluva wordsmith on topics of import – it is just better when The Byrds or Peter, Paul and Mary sing them. I should have added that PP&M also recored “Early Morning Rain” as well. At the concert I attended, he said Elvis changed a couple of words and he now sings it the Elvis version. I think one change was changing “drunk as I might be” to “drunk as I can be.” Thanks for writing. BTG

    • You’re right on Maureen! I have been to two Lightfoot concerts (too many years ago) and thoroughly enjoyed them; his repoire with both his audience and his band is amazing. He was better in concert than his albums portray. He is a legend/icon in the world of folk music. I have every one of his albums and the epitome of my relaxation mode is sitting and picking his music on my Martin 6-string.
      Dylan has written great music – which everyone else has cashed in on, but I don’t think his performance of that music is nearly as great as most other performers who have sung the same music. I can’t deny, either, that he has probably been the greatest influence on rock stars including the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix (who idolized Dylan).

      • Rich, thanks for reading and sharing your comments. I agree about your comments on Dylan as an influence as well as someone who did not perform well. When he first started, he would sometimes face the band and not the audience. Lightfoot is wonderful in concert as you note.
        Please feel free to comment in the future. BTG

  2. Lovely post!
    You don’t need to convince me that Lightfoot is a poet..
    http://www.corfid.com is a fan based Lightfoot site with an active discussion board with fans from all over posting their concert reviews, pics/videos, memories… http://www.lightfoot.ca has a wealth of info and the latest 2013 tour dates that have been confirmed so far.
    Check out I’ll Tag Along – fab song!
    Lightfoot was in a small club in Toronto a couple of weeks ago where a yearly celebration of his music is held and he shows up once in a while and does a couple of tunes. I caught them both on video and his daughters performance too… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFEwkmDufbE&list=UUFytFUqsvLBb2Vdn4k1szIA&index=15
    Lots more dates on the tour to come….get out and see him while you can…
    Char
    Toronto

  3. I came across an early Gordon Lightfoot record (maybe his first) it is on AME records and the following are on it.
    album called
    Early Lightfoot
    Gordon Lightfoot

    Side 1
    1. Remember me (I’m the one) (G.Lighjtfoot)
    2. Daisy Doo (G.Lightfoot)
    3. Adios,Adios (Lightfoot and Nash)
    4. Is my baby blue to-night. (Lou Handman)
    5. Sleep little jane (G.Lightfoot)
    Sise 2
    1.Long Haired Woman (G.Lightfoot)
    2. It’s too late, he wins (G.Lightfoot)
    3. Take care of yourself ( Hoffman-Klein)
    4. This is my song n(G.Lightfoot)
    5. Negotiations (Les Pouliot)

    Have you heard of this one before?

    Don Anthony

  4. Note to Readers: I was chatting with a friend of ours who noted that my wife is a keeper. She noted how my wife always listens and she has received some good advice. I mentioned Gordon Lightfoot’s song about “Rainy Day People” and how it defined my wife. Our friend concurred. We also laughed how my wife will tell me before we chat about a problem she is having with someone, “Now, I want you to just to listen and not try and fix this.” We men try to fix things when actually we need to shut up listen. So, here’s to us all being able to channel our “Rainy Day People” and listen.

  5. Pingback: Songwriters and Performers | musingsofanoldfart

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