Gordon Lightfoot, the Canadian singer/songwriter behind the folk hits “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” “Sundown” and “If You Could Read My Mind,” died at age 84 on Monday (May 1), his family has announced.
“Gordon Lightfoot passed away this evening in a Toronto hospital at 7:30 p.m.,” a statement on Lightfoot’s Facebook page announced, promising “more to come.”
Earlier this month, Lightfoot had canceled his upcoming U.S. and Canada tour dates due to health issues. “Gordon Lightfoot announces the cancellation of his U.S. and Canadian concert schedule for 2023,” a statement read at the time. “The singer is currently experiencing some health related issues and is unable to confirm rescheduled dates at this time.”
Lightfoot’s six-decade career began in the early 1960s on the Toronto folk circuit and went worldwide in the 1970s thanks to a string of influential hits. He scored four top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 in the ’70s, starting with “If You Could Read My Mind,” which peaked at No. 5 in 1971. Next up were “Sundown” — his lone No. 1 — and “Carefree Highway” (No. 10), both from 1974’s Sundown — also his only No. 1 album on the Billboard 200.
Finally, there was the most epic song of his catalog, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” which was released in 1976 and peaked at No. 2 on the Hot 100. The song told the story of the fatal sinking of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald a year earlier in Lake Superior, which killed all 29 men aboard the Great Lakes freighter. “They might have split up or they might have capsized/ They may have broke deep and took water/ And all that remains is the faces and the names/ Of the wives and the sons and the daughters,” the poetic lyrics read.
Lightfoot was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2012. He won 13 Juno Awards in his native Canada, capped by his induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1986. He won four Juno Awards for male vocalist of the year (1971-73 and 1975) and two for composer of the year (1973 and 1977). Lightfoot was nominated for four Grammys (but never won) — best folk performance for Did She Mention My Name (1968), best pop vocal performance, male for “If You Could Read My Mind” (1971) and song of the year and best pop vocal performance, male for “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” (1976).
Lightfoot is survived by his wife, actress Kim Hasse, whom he married in 2011. He had six children from his past relationships, including two previous marriages.