Saturday, August 10, 2013

Music and Landscape

Love happy, love sad, love enigmatic. faithful love, love lost -- all those

aspects of life find their ways in to the music of songwriter Gordon Lightfoot. Lightfoot. who grew up in southern Ontario, in Canada, often draws on the vast and varied landscapes of his native country in his songs as well.

If you’re thinking, who is Gordon Light foot anyway? chances are you know his music, even if you don’t his name. Sundown, If You Could Read My Mind, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, For Lovin’ Me, Cotton Jenny: those are but a few of his five decade and counting songwriting career.

Those are all songs well worth your listening.

Songwriters are often more eloquent in their evocation of land and history than those who set out to describe such things in prose and poetry, and it is to Gordon Lightfoot’s songs based in landscape that I most often return. A few favorites:

Whether you have kin and friends in Alberta, or even know where it is for that matter (it is in the plains and Rocky Mountains of Canada’s west). the travelers tale of leaving the city and going back to well loved places and people in Alberta Bound will connect.

Early Morning Rain is a traveler's tale of another sort, of a wanderer looking for a way on. “You can’t jump a jet plane like you can a freight train” is to me one of the best lines ever written, catching as it does wanderlust, sorrow, past, future, and change all in the space of a dozen words. Ian and Sylvia, who brought Light foot’s work to a wider audience in the 1960s, have done fine cover of it too.

The joy of travel and how love and landscape frame the moments of our lives at times is part of what you’ll hear in Christian Island (Georgian Bay).

Then there’s Canadian Railroad Trilogy. The story of the Canadian Pacific Railroad, meant to be used in a film about the continent spanning railroad, it is a song in which the railroad, the dreams it was meant to carry and does still, the people who laid the track and the lands they knew and where they are remembered, from the blue Rockies to the “green dark forests too silent to be real” live on.

you may also wish to see
Scotland's music: Karine Polwart
Celebrating Canada and Newfoundland: The Once
music of Canada

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posted by Kerry Dexter at


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