Gordon Lightfoot, a veteran Canadian singer-songwriter, has died. He passed away on Monday, May 1, at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the 84-year-old folk music and soft rock icon rose to international fame as a folk music star. Victoria Lord, Lightfoot’s longtime agent, confirmed his death, however the specific cause of death was not disclosed.
In 1974, Lightfoot’s song ‘Sundown’ topped the Billboard Hot 100, and he also scored top 5 hits with ‘If You Could Read My Mind’ and ‘The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.’ During his mid-’70s chart heyday, all three tracks, as well as ‘Carefree Highway’ and ‘Rainy Day People,’ achieved No. 1 on the adult contemporary chart.
Lightfoot rose to prominence in the mid-’60s, penning such folk standards as “Early Morning Rain” (a major hit for the Canadian folk duo Ian and Sylvia Tyson), “For Loving Me” and “Ribbon of Darkness,” as well as the ambitious “Canadian Railroad Trilogy,” a sort of Northern equivalent to Mickey Newbury’s “American Trilogy.”
His 1970 Reprise debut “Sit Down Young Stranger” contained the No. 5 US hit “If You Could Read My Mind,” a heavily orchestrated ballad; renamed after its hit, the LP rose to No. 12 in America.
Lightfoot was stopped in the early 1970s due to facial paralysis caused by Bell’s palsy. He stopped drinking in 1982 due to a major alcohol problem (“I was doing irrational things,” he told Rolling Stone), and he has stayed so for more than 30 years. A ruptured abdominal aneurysm in 2002 resulted in a six-week coma, protracted hospitalization, and additional surgery, but by 2004, he had produced a new record. After suffering a mild stroke in 2006, he was unable to play the guitar for about a year, but he returned to the stage. He quit smoking after being diagnosed with emphysema in 2018.
Despite this multitude of health problems, the indomitable musician continued to tour into his 80s, and undertook long US and Canadian treks from 2017 to 2019. He is s survived by his third wife Kim Hasse, whom he wed in 2014; two children from his first marriage to Brita Olaisson; two children by his second wife Elizabeth Moon; and two children from relationships between his first two marriages.