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Old 03-20-2021, 05:16 PM   #3
Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 15,624
Default Re: Interview-Dec.2020-Steve Waxman-

Steve Waxman: If you don’t mind, I’d like to talk about “If You Could Read My Mind.” When you talk about being able to write and perform songs that are relatable to people and make sense to them, this song touches a lot of people because you say things in this song that people just don’t know how to say. They don’t know how to put these kinds of words together to say the kinds of things and feel the kinds of things you feel in this song. I understand that this is a song you write when things weren’t going well with your wife at the time and I’m just wondering, for you, how did it begin?

Gordon Lightfoot: Well, I was leaving the house and going to an empty house to work. And one afternoon I was working in this empty house in the middle of a - I guess you could call it an emotional trauma. And, all of a sudden, out popped that tune and it came so easily and it only took a couple of hours. And it went on the record and nobody even knew that it was going to emerge. It came out as a single after the record had been out about five months and stalled. The record had already gotten an anchor. My album had gotten an anchor by that point. That’s what they call it when it gets to number forty and stops. And we were getting ready for number two when all of a sudden it got added at a Top 40 station in Seattle, Washington and all of a sudden, there it was. Next thing it got added in San Francisco. The record company got me on an airplane and they flew me out to the west coast to do interviews. Then they started playing it at KNX in LA. It was a total surprise to everyone.

Steve Waxman: When you say that you were able to write the song in just a couple of hours…

Gordon Lightfoot: Oh, some of them take days. Sometimes you’re working on a song for weeks. Honest to god. I’m telling you, the ones that happen quickly are far in the minority. Some of the ones, really the best ones are written very spontaneously in very little time.

Steve Waxman: What I’m saying is that the words are so perfect for the sentiment…

Gordon Lightfoot: I don’t know how I found that stuff. It was just so good and there it was. I picked it out of the air and there it was. And probably some of the business about the wishing well and stuff like that, you know, lots of people talked about that stuff in songs. And bringing the movie aspect into it and the idea of actors acting, I’d done that in some of my other tunes. I’d envisioned actors acting out these tunes. It’s really weird the way it goes.

Steve Waxman: Was there much rewriting that you had to do while you were putting this together?

Gordon Lightfoot: That one, really, was just about done when I got done with it. I had a number of them like that, right back at the beginning when I first came out of serious contracts. Like when I got signed by the Witmark publishers in New York. I mean, the pressure was then on. And I had a record deal too and having the record deal and the publishing deal made me get my nose to the grindstone. I sat right down and got to work on this stuff. You see, we needed the material. We needed the songs. I had a whole repertoire of tunes by other people. I wanted to write my own songs. I wanted to be like Bob Dylan. I wanted to write my own tunes.

Steve Waxman: So, then how do you feel when someone like Bob Dylan tells the world how much they admire you as a songwriter?

Gordon Lightfoot: Well, he’s probably just having a little tongue-in-cheek problem. I was part central for him and a lot of his people here in Toronto back in the 70s when they were in town which was quite often. And the big deal in ‘75, the Rolling Thunder Revue, we had a big party here at my house in Toronto. It was a great time.

“If You Could Read My Mind”? I don’t know. I was in an empty house and I was going through some kind of trauma and, all of a sudden, there was the song.

Steve Waxman: Do you get self-conscious at all showing a song like this to your wife?

Gordon Lightfoot: No. No, I don’t. It’s not an offensive tune. Not like “For Lovin’ Me”. I’d never write another one like that. It’s an innocent song that didn’t have anything in it that’s offensive. You know, I try to avoid that. I learned that very early.

Steve Waxman: Okay, but there is a line in “If You Could Read My Mind” where you say “The feelings that you lack.”

Gordon Lightfoot: Well, that should have been “we.” My daughter made me change that for on stage and I did that quite promptly. She said “It’s a two way street, daddy. Daddy, it’s a two way street.” And I said “You know, you’re right.” When I do it on stage, it’s mutual. “The feelings that we lack.” How handy it was to get myself out of that one.

Steve Waxman: Okay. So, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” That one started with a newspaper article, right?

Gordon Lightfoot: It started with hearing about it on television three hours after it happened. I was working...well, I was alone again. I was in a different empty house. I used to find empty houses that were standing for sale and take my little chair and table in there and go and write tunes in houses that were standing empty. And I was in another empty house and it was a very windy night and I went down and went down for a coffee and it was on television. This huge ship had just sunk on Lake Superior. And that is what got my engine started in writing a song about that because I had some chords and I had a melody that I was always trying to find something for. I was trying to find a lyric. All I had was the chord, the melody and no lyric and that became the lyric. I added that in the mix and I worked on it and it took me a couple of weeks. I worked on it all through the month of January. I knew that we were going in the studio. I knew that it was good enough to go down. I knew it was good enough to be on the record anyway. I didn’t know how long it was going to be. Later on I went down to, as months went by, or the next week, I saw an article in one of the news magazines. So I carried on, in my entrepreneurial way, to the newspaper office of the Toronto Telegram and got the back copies because we had no computers yet at this point or anything like that. I got the back copies and noticed that they spelled the name “Edmund” wrong. They spelled it with an “o”. And I said ‘That’s it. I’m writing it. That’s it. I’m going home. I’m going to write this.’ And I went home and I got started. And I wrote it because they spelled the name wrong in the headline.

Steve Waxman: It doesn’t take much to set you off,huh?

Gordon Lightfoot: I said ‘A whole lot of people are going to hear this, so we better do it right.’ I made sure. There was some conjecture, I will admit, in the fourth verse about the old cook and stuff like that and the hatch covers falling down and everything. I answered for that later by the Ladies Committee in Madison, Wisconsin. They didn’t like that line because their boys were on duty. Their boys were on duty when the hatch covers caved in supposedly and they didn’t like hearing it in concert. So I rewrote that line and from that day on I sung the song another thousand times and I did the new line. The new line was “At seven pm it grew dark, it was then I said ‘Fellas it was good to know ‘ya’” And I also raided Woody Guthrie. “So Long, It’s Good To Know ‘Ya” by Woody Guthrie. And they’re all in one line. I got Woody Guthrie into it and I changed the line. Got the hatch covers out of it and whenever I played it in the Great Lakes area from that point on, the Ladies Committee came. They were so happy that their sons were not being blamed for not looking after the hatch covers. And that’s how serious it got. I heard it getting mentioned on a talk show one night. That it was not the hatch covers that caused the ship to sink. It was proven scientifically that it was not the hatch covers that caused the Edmund Fitzgerald to sink.

Steve Waxman: Musically, how much did the band bring to that song?

Gordon Lightfoot: They brought the wind and the water. My steel player and my guitar player. Two brilliant guys. Wonderful guys. Peewee Charles. Terry Clemons. They brought the wind and the water into it with what they played. They brought the storm into it.

part 4 - next post
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