Rainy Day People – a tribute to Gordon Lightfoot (an encore)

With it raining cats and dogs outside tonight (and this morning with tropical storm Elsa), 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 (a link to the song is below).

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.”

Gordon Lightfoot – Rainy Day People – Bing video

33 thoughts on “Rainy Day People – a tribute to Gordon Lightfoot (an encore)

    • Holly, thanks for acknowledgement of both. Your favorite is a terrific song that touches many more than his biggest fans. He is a wonderful storyteller in his songs. The one you mention is a great example of lost love and the pains it causes. Keith

    • David, indeed it was. The style (both musically and lyrically) he chose lent itself to the tragic story. He seemed to use language the sailors might use. Keith

  1. What a great post Keith.,. I like your wife and it seems like you as well are rainy day people and Gordon Lightfoot sang it so well. All of your correlations and artists were great choices for a morning lift before I hit the road. Have a wonderful rainy day as we hit blistering highs… looks like earthquake weather. 💖

    • Clive, he has a terrific body of work. “The Canadian Railway Trilogy” is a story telling song. You likely know “Carefree Highway” and “Sundown.” Others you may not know are “Beautiful” and “”Early Morning Rain” which Elvis made into hit. When we saw Lightfoot live, he said he adopted a slight lyric change that Elvis made, as he liked it better. Keith

  2. Hey, I adore Gordon Lightfoot! Have I checked out the “about” page on your blog? Are you Canadian? I am. Still, I didn’t realize he was popular and listened to outside of Canada. Same goes for Buffy St. Marie, but I’ve learned better!

    • Resa, no just a fan of Canadian artists. We saw Lightfoot in concert and it was a treat. We are also fans of Neil Young, kd lang, and Celine Dion. Our family went to Montreal for their summer jazz festival one year and had fun. And, my oldest and I went to Toronto (saw Second City), Ottawa and Montreal after flying into Cleveland to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (a must see). Great trip. Keith

      • Resa, you are so right. My son and I went to this Toronto museum downtown that allowed people in at 5:30 or so at deep discounted price. We went because of a wonderfully bizarre traveling exhibit, which escapes me now. We thought it was so cool. Of course, we did the more tourist things – space needle, aquarium – which were near our hotel. But, Second City was the highlight for us. Keith

  3. Oooohhhh … and now you’ve got my Gordon Lightfoot dial humming in my head! I love some of his … stay tuned! 27 years for you and your wife, eh? I’m thinking I won’t be around when you reach 50, but I have every confidence that you will, so let me just say tonight … Happy 50th, dear friend! Now, methinks I shall consider a Gordon Lightfoot tune for tomorrow’s music post!

  4. Pingback: ♫ Sundown ♫ (Redux) | Filosofa's Word

  5. Note to Readers: Our friend Jill offers a link to a redux post on Lightfoot’s “Sundown” in the Comments section. She provides a good back story on the song. Take a listen.

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