April 29, 2013

Today is my late brother Mark’s birthday; as the youngest of the three brothers he would have been (I hope I’m right when I say this) 55. My prayers are that God will have mercy on his soul and that he is in His eternal love, light, and care. Mark struggled with a lot of demons in his life that ultimately overwhelmed him, but at his very core he was a good soul, and far more talented in every way than the rest of his surviving brothers.

I think of the years we spent together back in the Seventies; the one thing that bonded us so closely was musical tastes we shared. In addition to groups like the Beach Boys, Pink Floyd, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, the Eagles and others, we listened to a lot of Gordon Lightfoot on drives we took up to the Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers and the Swampscott / Nahant sea wall. Those were precious times.

I hadn’t thought of Gord’s (to Mark and me he was always Gord, as if we knew him personally) music in years, but the other day I heard Carefree Highway from his 1972 Sundown LP while food shopping, and all of a sudden I thought of Mark and our love for Gord’s music and his distinctive multi-tracked harmonies. Same holds true for my good friend and fellow “founding father” of Goodboys Nation, the late Mike “Doc” Frechette – he loved Gord’s music as well. Always a mix of the whimsical, serious, and melancholy, Lightfoot’s music was perfect for New England falls and winters, as those were the seasons we all found ourselves listening to his music the most – there was always something about those seasons and Gord’s music that just went together. It’s sad that I now equate Lightfoot’s music with those no longer living, but there’s little I can do about it – after all, life is for the living. But the memories live forever and are cherished.

In memory of Mark and Mike and the times we shared so long ago together in various times and places (God, do I feel old and washed up), here are a baker’s dozen of songs I’m sure Mark and Mike – were they here with me in another realm different from the candle I burn in their memory – would count amongst our collective favorites:

13. Daylight Katy, from Endless Wire. A pretty song, brings back vivid memories of living in my first apartment in downtown Woburn, Mass. By this time Gord’s incredible run of popularity was starting to wane, but he could still craft songs that made you shake your head in amazement.

12. On The High Seas, from Dream Street Rose. A sad but pretty song, something that Gord was always great at.

11. Sundown, from Sundown. Heard this while food shopping the other day. It’s very “poppy” for Gord, but it certainly did the trick by catapulting him to the top of the charts.

10. Ghosts Of Cape Horn, from Dream Street Rose. A haunting tune of the sea, a theme Gord would go back to time and again. Real New England sounding music to me.

9. Somewhere U.S.A., from Sundown. My favorite tune from Sundown. With the marimba in the background one could almost imagine Jimmy Buffett singing this tune.

8. The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, from Summertime Dream. Not much to say about this: a haunting song about tragedy on the high seas Great Lakes.

7. Spanish Moss, from Summertime Dream. Gord’s best song, I think, about long lost love. It’s both pretty and melancholy – a combination Gord always pulled off very well.

6. Dream Street Rose, from Dream Street Rose. I love the way this tune rocks a bit. You could almost feel Gord and his band trying a little too hard to make a commercial hit. I like it, though.

5. Cold On The Shoulder, from Cold On The Shoulder. This 8-track got a lot of play in my 1969 Pontiac Tempest. The album, quite sparse and moody in its instrumentation and production, is, I think, one of Gord’s best.

4. Summertime Dream, from Summertime Dream. I’m guessing that on the heels of “Edmund Fitzgerald” this was Gord’s most popular and best-selling album. Reminds me of when we lived in the house in Tewksbury and had this surprise snowstorm in May of 1977 that knocked our power out for a couple of days. Funny how music brings back such long-forgotten memories, isn’t it?

3. Beautiful, from Gord’s Gold. A special tune, as Tracey and I had this song played at our wedding.

2. Seven Island Suite, from Sundown. This song is so quintessential Gord, you just never tire of listening to it.

1. The Circle Is Small, from Endless Wire. It’s 1981 and Im living in this little garage apartment in Nuttings Lake. I broke up with my girlfriend at the time to this tune. I knew she was cheating on me, so I put the song on the record player, downed a Johnny Walker Red (or two) and recited the words from the chorus to her directly as Gord sang them:

I can see it in your eyes and feel it in the way you kiss my lips
I can hear it in your voice whenever we are talking like this
I can see what you believe in when his name is mentioned and I die
I can watch the way you walk, the way you talk, the way you close your eyes

A great tune that stands amongst the best that folksingers do best, singing lyrics that we mortals could never find it in our hearts or imaginations to say ourselves.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:53 | Comments (2)
  1. Gordon Lightfoot’s music was one of my guilty pleasures(from my rock and roll buddies) back in the day. That’s a good list.

    One minor grumble about #8: Lake Superior isn’t the high seas, she has her own distinct pleasures and perils.

    Comment by Dave E. — April 30, 2013 @ 6:36 pm

  2. Yep, of course you’re right there. I stand corrected.

    Comment by The Great White Shank — April 30, 2013 @ 10:12 pm

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