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<anon> 04-25-2005 09:52 PM

I am writing a paper on Gordon Lightfoot's song Don Quixote and the Novel itself, I was just wondering if anyone knew of any places where I could find comments about the song from Mr.Lightfoot?? It would be really helpful in my research. Thank you!

The Rez 04-25-2005 10:44 PM

Glad to help.

Buy the CD, better yet the LP, and read the poem on the back.

One's heros are not easily hidden.

The Rez

<anon> 04-26-2005 06:35 AM

Thanks for the help... we actually already own that cd, I was hoping for a little more definate discussion about the song and why he choose to write it... the poem was extremely helpful though... if anyone has anyother helpful hints i'm all ears!! Thanks again!!

Brave Soul 04-26-2005 12:44 PM

The following is from the book accompanying the "Songbook" CD, in which Gordon comments on most of the songs he wrote contained in the album:
DON QUIXOTE "It was written for Michael Douglas' first movie "Hail, Hero!" I wrote the title song for the movie, but it was no good, even though he used it. He didn't use "Don Quixote," even though it was a better song. It wasn't a very good demo. I was at the premiere of the movie in Boston, and the producers took us all out to the horse track there. It was the only time I ever went to the races in my life. The movie went down in flames. But the song survived, and it seems that Mr. Douglas has thrived also."

I'm afraid that won't help much, but there it is.

Borderstone 04-26-2005 04:20 PM

In my view,I believe Gordon chose "Don Quixote" to use as a metaphor or comparison to people who engage in trying to be more than they truly are.

In essence,fooling themselves into their own made up reality and believing it to be true.
Don Quixote over time has become a symbol for a foolish man or simpleton. In other words,not to bright or worldly.

Hope that helps. ;) Bye now!:cool;

The Rez 04-27-2005 12:13 AM

Unique how views differ. Nothing wrong w/ that - just unique.

In my view, perhaps colored by the musical Man of La Mancha, Don Quixote is seen as noble. Maybe plain crazy at times, but always noble of heart. The Dreamer in thrall of The Dream.

I listen to Gord's song; I read the poem; I recall the rough-hewn sculpture in Gord's writingroom - all I see is noble dreams.

The song is heroic; the poem is heroic; and the sculpture is heroic. None of fools.

And the faithful, care-giving Sancho Panza. Though his Master be bone-dry old and weary, the Squire would never rob his Knight of his "wild and free."

If you'll look under the topic "What is the Meaning of The Minstrel of the Dawn?" you'll meet a person who's handle is "Don Quixoe." Knows his stuff.

By way of a candid a conversation yrs ago, I came to understand the magic within the book and the song - and the sculpture.

To the Lord of LaMancha,

The Rez

[ April 27, 2005, 00:33: Message edited by: The Rez ]

SilverHeels 04-27-2005 07:33 AM

&lt;&lt; Don Quixote over time has become a symbol for a foolish man or simpleton &gt;&gt;

I disagree. To me, DQ personifies the dreamer who lives in the soul of each of us. In a perfect world, all men would be as he was - seeing beauty in all things. Sadly today we can only 'tilt at windmills'.
Being a dreamer myself,I love Don Quixote. He is one of favourite heroes in litrature.

closetcanadian 04-27-2005 08:09 AM


Next time you are at the library, look for a copy of "Don Quixote" by Cervantes. Once you've read the book, you will understand the comments posted by The Rez and SilverHeels. If being an idealistic dreamer makes one foolish or a simpleton, I guess I'm guilty of being both! :)

<anon> 04-27-2005 08:30 AM

Thanks everyone for all your helpful suggesttions. It was very helpful to hear opinions of fans of the song and the novel. Plus your helpful research tips. I will have to say that,like many of you, I find Don Quixote to be the heros of our dreams, always trying to make them reality. Just a tidbit of my insight. Thanks again for all the help!

ELizabeth 04-27-2005 09:56 AM

I recall that JS sings in 'Canons in the Rain' that to Don Quixote 'the windmills were giants in his eyes' To me he lived in a dream world,if I recall correctly, created from reading too many books on chivalry(sp). His family thought he was crazy. Was he?

SilverHeels 04-27-2005 10:55 AM

&lt;&lt;His family thought he was crazy. Was he? &gt;&gt;

Not in my opinion because if he was, so am I - and altho some may argue the point, I do not believe I am. :D

ELizabeth 04-27-2005 11:47 AM

I agree with Silverheels, I think he was a dreamer not crazy!

The Rez 04-27-2005 12:17 PM


How is it possible John's verse didn't come to my mind? Canons in the Rain. Classic Stewart.

John's Virginia preferred thunder as canons. The schoolbook reality didn't meet her need. Even though the 'holy roads were sidetracks just the same' - she believed. Yet another of John's 'magic' characters.

Crazy? Yes, like The Starman. I'll walk w/ Virginia, Don Q., and the Dreamers - who only understand. Crazy, perhaps, can be good.

Here's to you, Elizabeth, who - w/ 2nd Row Visions soon- understands.

The Rez

Don Quixote 04-27-2005 06:13 PM

All very interesting posts.
Rez, thanks again for the kind words.
A couple of things before we start:
1) GL mentioned Don Quixote in a prior song, the wonderful "If I Could" ("If I could stand like the rusty old man in his armor;/if I could ride the steed that he rode in his time;/I would turn his head away to the river/and let him wander through the meadow grass/wild and free (note the same phrasing in the later song)/for everyone to see." Obviously, what GL sees in the character is not just a crazy person who can't distinguish reality from fantasy. More about that later.
2) I'm not much of a fan of Man of La Mancha, although I have to admit "The Impossible Dream" is a memorable song. If you don't want to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the publication of the book by actually reading it (it's about 1000 pages in two parts), there is a recent movie version starring John Lithgow that is quite faithful to the book. I was pleasantly surprised by it, and even use it in my classes when I teach the novel.

If you want some information and maybe a little analysis for your paper:

The novel actually started as a parody of books of chivalry, which were about as distanced from reality, and therefore as popular as an escapist activity as soap operas, romance novels, WWF wrestling and cruising the Internet to find true love would be today. The main character, a previously quiet 50-ish bachelor, goes crazy from reading too many of these books of chivalry ("novelas de caballeri'as), and begins to believe that not only is a he a famous knight, but that his mission is to restore the ideals and rules of knight-errantry to a land that has forgotten them (conveniently forgetting that they never truly existed in practice in the first place).
As for his being crazy, his is a very particular brand of lunacy, for he is a wise, thoughtful, literate and knowledgeable man on any theme except that of knight-errantry. He leaves people perplexed and asking if he is the craziest sane person or the sanest crazy person ("el cuerdo ma's loco o el loco ma's cuerdo") in the world. This duality between reality and madness, sometimes between reality and fantasy, or idealism and realism, is perhaps the most notable theme in the novel. The reader constantly shifts between admiration for DQ's ideals--helping the poor and the defenseless, loyalty in love, defending the faith--and embarrassment at his true impotence, and even the occasional harm that he causes, as he tries to realize his goals. We also feel the ambiguity of the guilty pleasures of laughing at this crazy man (how can one laugh at the follies of the crazed--isn't this insensitive?) as he gets himself into one mess after another, and yet also, increasingly as the book advances, especially in the 2nd part, angry at those who deliberately trick him and play him for the fool. We start to ask who is crazier--someone who can't see reality, or someone who takes advantage of such a poor soul to make sport of him.

Duality and ambiguity are again part of other aspects of novel. His squire, Sancho Panza, a poor campesino, or peasant, sees windmills where DQ sees giants, and prostitutes where his master sees refined ladies. However, by the end of the second part, it is SP, and not DQ, who wishes to go on one more sally, who wants to continue the adventures, when DQ, now back to being his former self, Alonso Quijano, advises his friends that "no hay pa'jaros en el nido de anta~no" ("there are no birds in last year's nest").
The love of his life, "Dulcinea del Toboso", is in reality a pig-herder ("the best hand at salting pork" in the area!). In his folly, he transforms this coarse woman into the woman of his ideal, the one he fights for and to whom he dedicates all his victories. Again, we laugh, but we also think: what man does not look upon the love of his life and think that he possesses the most beautiful woman in the world? What matters more--what other people think of as objective reality, or what we believe is true?

There's sooooo much more to the book, but again I've been long-winded. What the relationship to the song is, well...
I would say that GL's song is also open to multiple interpretations, but that much of the spirit of the book is present (perhaps a bit too idealizing of DQ, but that's how he was mostly seen in the early 1970s. I don't have the time to go through the song line by line, but here are some of my general ideas:
In the song, DQ is portrayed somewhat ambiguously as well. He tries to right the wrongs that have been part of societies only forever (see the litany that starts with "See the jailor with his key who locks away all trace of sin"--who is crazier, someone who "shouts across the ocean to the shore", or someone who believes that the only people who have sinned are the ones behind bars?), and continuing to the present time ("see the youth in ghetto black condemned to life upon the street"). Of course, armed only with a "battered book" (could be a book of chivalry, could be a Bible), a "rusty sword" such as the one he used so ineffectively in the novel, ("rusty", perhaps because crusaders for justice are so few and far betweeen) and a "tarnished cross" (a religion that has been falsified and misused)--how can one person expect to make any headway against the injustices of life? He "shouts across the ocean to the shore 'til he can shout no more"--a futile effort, taking all of his strenghts, and later on goes "in vain to search again/where no one will hear." (Of course, if he were to shout from Spain across the ocean, the shore would be North America--perhaps a subtle jab at the social injustices of our society). All in all the definition of a quixotic pursuit: spend all your energy and resources in an fight against vastly superior forces, in a vain attempt to change the world.
Crazy, yes? Yes, but...is not it crazier to live in a society and give in to its corruption, injustice and insensitivity without a fight? To scrap all of our morals and beliefs in goodness to take part in a system that treats the underclasses as if they were less than human (the poor "who wake to find the table bare", that lets the rich be indifferent to suffering ("See the gentry in the country/ riding off to take the air")? Is it not crazier to see one's fellow man be downtrodden and not attempt to do anything about it, even if it means that we might take a licking as well? Is it wrong to love purely even though the rest of the world thinks of love as this week's bed partner?

I've gone on 'way too long. If anyone has made it to the end of this third part of the novel, and wants, God knows why, any more information, let me know.

[ May 10, 2006, 11:07: Message edited by: Don Quixote ]

Sheryl 04-27-2005 07:10 PM

That was just beautiful. Thank you.

The Rez 04-27-2005 07:40 PM

Don Q:

. . . Ah, my man!

The Rez

. . . The Old Fool with the wrong bait

LSH 04-29-2005 08:18 PM

I love teachers.

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