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Old 06-26-2010, 11:59 AM   #1
Join Date: May 2000
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Default Myrtle Beach Article

Gordon Lightfoot, 71, keeps lyrics current, to perform in North Myrtle Beach

June 25--Gordon Lightfoot charts a new course whenever he sings "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."

The Canadian musical poet, who performs tonight at the Alabama Theatre in North Myrtle Beach, said he has revised some lyrics amid new historical data.

His chilling ballad from 1976, about an iron-ore freighter that sank in November 1975 after crossing Lake Superior in nearly hurricane-force winds, had referred to the longtime officially recognized cause: unclosed hatches that caved in. A "Dive Detectives" TV documentary earlier this year, though, floated a massive "rogue wave" premise that probably toppled the ship.

Speaking two weeks ago by phone from home in Toronto, Lightfoot said he has revised the hatch line in the song.

"Unfortunately, I can't change a line in what's already recorded," he said, "but certainly I've been doing it with the new line ever since this news came out."

Thinking back to the time of the tragedy, Lightfoot said when such vessels sank in the Great Lakes, they didn't stay in national news for long.

"When the Edmund Fitzgerald sank," he said, "there was a Newsweek article, and really, that's all there was, and a couple of news articles the next day, and that was it."

Lightfoot's ensuing melodic tribute to the ship's 29-man crew bound for Cleveland endured some editing to keep it sailing as a single for pop-radio play. He said after meeting with his then-record label, he and producers cut the instrumental component in half.

"We did that by taking eight bars of the middle of the instrumental part, shortening the song to four minutes and 20 seconds, and never losing any of the lyrics."

Raised near the Georgian Bay, northwest of Toronto, Lightfoot said he still treasures the thought of first seeing a grain ship up close.

"I was about 5 years old," he said. "A 600-footer at that time: That was a big boat."

Speaking of the Edmund Fitzgerald's destination, Lightfoot, 71, said that's where he made his U.S. debut performance, at age 23 in the middle of July.

"Le Cave in Cleveland was really well known, one of the main folk clubs in America," he said of a long-defunct place where the Cleveland Clinic has since built its foundation.

As Motown Records officials in Detroit showed, Lightfoot called Cleveland one of the first places to go to shop around new acts for record distribution.

Before topping pop charts in the 1970s with "If You Could Read My Mind," "Sundown," and "Carefree Highway," Lightfoot had penned hits the previous decade for Peter, Paul & Mary and Marty Robbins.

He said he started writing music while in high school, and that led to work in copying orchestral lead sheets by hand in ink.

A title or melody always comes to mind first when he writes a number.

Asked if he sees folk music as one continuous movement from generation to generation, Lightfoot replied, "It's always there."

He said Toronto boasts quite a collection of young folk artists, one of whom "plays uke on three to four strings," the best he's heard on that instrument since he was in Hawaii.

"It's like a melting pot here," Lightfoot said, noting he likes to attend concerts and share his thoughts with the performers and record companies.

"I respect the new stuff as much as I respect the old stuff. It changes. They're looking for those new acts all the time," he said.

Lightfoot has run out of fingers to count all his hall-of-fame memberships, such as the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, to which his favorite singer, Bob Dylan, inducted him in 1986.

Tonight marks his first time performing in Myrtle Beach.

Lightfoot said he likes trying new tempos and keys in spreading many tunes for audiences over two hours and five minutes, with a 20-minute intermission. "You owe them respect," he said. "Do not bore them. Don't go too long."

Talk radio occupies most of Lightfoot's free time, now.

"I'm immensely interested in what's going on, and following the current events."

Contact STEVE PALISIN at 444-1764.

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