Legendary Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot dies at 84

Lightfoot's music has touched the hearts of millions of people, and he was widely hailed as one of Canada's most important cultural ambassadors.
Singer Gordon Lightfoot performs on stage.
Posted at 9:51 AM, May 02, 2023

Gordon Lightfoot, the iconic singer-songwriter whose folk music hits included "If You Could Read My Mind" and "Carefree Highway" has died. He was 84.

A spokesperson said he died of natural causes at a Toronto hospital.

Born in Orillia, Ontario, in 1938, Lightfoot launched his music career in the 1960s, quickly establishing himself as one of Canada's most talented and influential folk music stars. Over the course of his career, he released over 20 studio albums and recorded hundreds of songs, including "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," "Early Morning Rain" and "Sundown." 

Lighfoot was nominated for four Grammy awards and has collected 16 Juno Awards — Canada's equivalent of the Grammy.

Lightfoot's music touched the hearts of millions of people around the globe, and he was widely hailed as one of Canada's most important cultural ambassadors. His songs were celebrated for their poetic lyricism and their ability to embody Canadian life and identity.

Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press via AP

"We have lost one of our greatest singer-songwriters," Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted. "Gordon Lightfoot captured our country's spirit in his music — and in doing so, he helped shape Canada's soundscape. May his music continue to inspire future generations, and may his legacy live on forever." 

Bob Dylan once referred to Lightfoot as one of his favorite songwriters and a "rare talent." His songs have been covered by a slew of musical superstars, including Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash,Olivia Newton-John, Hank Williams Jr., Harry Belafonte and Barbra Streisand. 

Several of Lightfoot's albums achieved gold and multi-platinum status, but his popularity peaked in the 1970s when his album and single "Sundown" jumped to the top of the Billboard charts. He was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1986 and got his spot in the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001. He also was bestowed with the Governor General's award in 1997, Canada's highest honor in performing arts.

Songwriter Bryan Adams, who was also inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, said the news of Lightfoot's passing was difficult to handle.

"Once in a blue moon you get to work and hang out with one of the people you admired when you were growing up," he said on Twitter. "I was lucky enough to say Gordon was my friend and I'm gutted to know he's gone. The world is a lesser place without him. I know I speak for all Canadians when I say: thank you for the songs Gordon Lightfoot. Bless your sweet songwriting heart, RIP dear friend."

Lightfoot has battled illness over the past two decades, even falling into a six-week coma in 2002 after he underwent emergency surgery for a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm. All of his remaining tour dates were canceled that year.

In March 2020, Lighfoot released his studio album "Solo," more than 54 years after his debut album.

While Lightfoot's passing is a great loss to the music world and to Canada as a whole, his musical and cultural legacy will live on for generations to come.

Chris Young / The Canadian Press via AP