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Old 05-18-2009, 08:18 AM   #1
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Default How Gordon Lightfoot Changed My Life -article-Augusta GA.

Sights and Sounds
by Metro Spirit Writers How Gordon Lightfoot changed my life
by Eric Johnson, May 17th 03:34pm

So one day a couple of months ago, Alice, who sits next to me here at the Spirit and assigns the entertainment stories, gets a press release.

"hmm…,” she mutters. “Gordon Lightfoot’s coming to town.”

“Gordon Lightfoot?!?!” I ask, apparently with more than a little gusto. “Gordon ‘The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald’ Lightfoot?”

Maybe it’s because I sit over here in the corner and never say much, or maybe it’s because when I do speak it’s usually about something no one’s much interested in or about a topic everyone but me seems to realize has come and gone. Whatever the reason, heads start popping up from behind computers like meerkats.

Only Alice, however, seems to know what to say.

“Um…do you want to write that one?”

“Do I?” I reply. “We’re talking ‘The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.’”

In a roundabout way, Gordon Lightfoot’s classic folk song is the reason I’m sitting over here in my quiet corner of the Spirit office.

Back when the Edmund Fitzgerald went down in stormy Lake Superior, I was a little kid living in Eau Claire, Wis., which made the event a regional story that got a lot of coverage. Since sinking ships and the finality of death were both topics of interest to a kid with a dawning awareness of a world larger than his home and the “Daniel Boone” reruns that waited for him along with his after school glass of milk, the story made an impression, and when the song came out a little while later, it was the first time personal recollection and popular culture met.

It was a big deal.

And the song itself — the way the storm builds through the details, the words of the cook, the Captain’s wiring in of their peril — was just so much more than the Beverly Cleary books I was reading.

Those were fun stories that kept you turning pages. These were specific words that painted a particular picture that touched something deep inside. As a kid listening to my little black and white AM/FM radio, I recognized the power in that.

So, being in a position to actually talk to Gordon Lightfoot all these years later — and under the pretext of writing something about him — is the kind of poetry that makes life worth living, and seeing him perform the song from the seventh row of the Bell last night brought a sense of closure to a separate but related issue that I’ve always felt was one of the great injustices ever done to me.

After the song came out, I was at a birthday party at Eau Claire’s roller rink. Toward the end of the evening, the guy running the sound system opened things up for requests, so I skated over, steadied myself by grabbing the blue shag carpeting covering the walls of the booth, and submitted my request for ‘The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.’

Of course, that was a completely inappropriate song for the circumstances. Couples wanted to hold hands and skate around to “Muskrat Love” and “Afternoon Delight,” not a song like that, but the guy told me he’d play it, and being the gullible little guy I was, I believed him.

Once more I went up. Once more he told me he’d play it. And once more he didn’t.

He never did, and it’s bugged me ever since.

Which is why Gordon Lightfoot still matters. No, he probably didn’t win over any new fans with last night’s concert — his voice, while still expressive, is nonetheless shackled by the miles he’s logged and the life he’s lived — but winning over new fans wasn’t really the point.

You watch someone like Gordon Lightfoot perform for the same reason you watch Arnold Palmer play golf — not for what he can do now, but for what he did back then…and to remember how you were a part of it.
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Old 05-18-2009, 08:29 AM   #2
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Default Re: How Gordon Lightfoot Changed My Life -article-Augusta GA.

What a wonderful piece. That's what "Lightheadedness" is all about!
("the river is the melody, the sky is the refrain")
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Old 05-18-2009, 06:01 PM   #3
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Default Re: How Gordon Lightfoot Changed My Life -article-Augusta GA.

What a great article! I’ve taken lots of grief for having an affinity for the works of Gordon Lightfoot, but I would never have dreamt of requesting the Wreck at a roller rink. I like this guy, Eric Johnson. I’m so glad he got some resolution on this issue.

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Old 05-18-2009, 06:14 PM   #4
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Default Re: How Gordon Lightfoot Changed My Life -article-Augusta GA.

THAT'S an awesome article.
"Someday we'll wave hello and wish we'd never waved goodbye..." -- Billy Corgan
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Old 05-18-2009, 07:00 PM   #5
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Default Re: How Gordon Lightfoot Changed My Life -article-Augusta GA.

Couples wanted to hold hands and skate around to “Muskrat Love” and “Afternoon Delight,” not a song like that
"Lake Huron Rolls..." sounds like roller skating music to me.

Terrific story. He captures the imagination then won't let it go till its served its apprenticeship.
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Old 05-18-2009, 10:36 PM   #6
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Default Re: How Gordon Lightfoot Changed My Life -article-Augusta GA.

It really is a nice article and one that I would hope gets read by newspaper people who are slated to write articles on Gordon Lightfoot.

That last line in the article tells a story like a picture..."and to remember how you were a part of it."

A very nice melter to bring the end of the day to a close.

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