Gordon Lightfoot’s career began in the early 1960s as a songwriter. His songs were recorded by many of the legends of Classic Rock History. Artists that recorded his music in the 1960s included Elvis Presley, Peter Paul & Mary, Judy Collins, Marty Robbins, Richie Havens, and many others.
In the mid 1960s, Gordon Lightfoot signed a contract with United Artists Records. His first solo album was released in 1966 entitled Lightfoot! Over the next five years, Gordon Lightfoot would become one of the most well known artists in Canada. He had not yet become a household name in the U.S. but that would change at the dawn of the seventies.
In 1970, Gordon Lightfoot signed a new recording contract with Warner Brothers Records. The signing would prove to be very successful for both parties. Gordon Lightfoot would finally reach beyond his Canadian stardom as an artist with a huge hit single in 1970 entitled “If You Could Read My Mind.” Gordon Lightfoot would celebrate the most successful time period of his career in the 1970s. Gordon Lightfoot released eight albums during his 1970s stretch. He also celebrated many top 10 singles on both the Canadian and United States Music Charts.
From 1966 to 2012, Gordon Lightfoot released over twenty albums. With an abundance of hit singles recorded by himself and other artists, Gordon Lightfoot stands as one of the legends of Classic Rock History. Our top 10 Gordon Lightfoot songs are just a sneak peek into the man’s fabulous career.
Editors Note: Gordon Lightfoot passed away at the age of 84 on May 1, 2023. We thank him for the wonderful songs and stories he gave the world. He will be missed, but his soul will live on forever.
# 10 – Carefree Highway
Opening our top 10 Gordon Lightfoot songs list is the wonderful track “Carefree Highway.” The song was released on Gordon Lightfoot”s album entitled Sundown. The album was released in 1974. “Carefree Highway,” served as the follow up single to the album’s number one song “Sundown.” We felt opening up this list with “Carefree Highway” was the perfect choice because it represents one of the most successful years Gordon Lightfoot celebrated as a recording artist.
# 9 – Daylight Katy
One of our favorite Gordon Lightfoot songs was released on Gordon Lightfoot’s last album of the 1970s. “Daylight Katy,” was the opening track to Gordon Lightfoot’s Endless Wire album. Not to be confused with the Who album of the same name. “Daylight Katy,” was released as a single and did fairly well on the Adult Contemporary music charts reaching up to number 14.
# 8 – Early Morning Rain
We could not compose a Gordon Lightfoot songs list and not include the classic Gordon Lightfoot song “Early Morning Rain.” The song stands as one of his most covered songs. The song was first recorded by fellow Canadians Ian & Silvia in 1965. That same year, the very successful folk group Peter, Paul and Mary released the song and enjoyed more success with it than any other artist would have with the song. The song “Early Morning Rain,” would also be covered by such legendary artists Bob Dylan, The Grateful Dead, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis as the most noted.
# 7 – Black Day In July
It was difficult to be a singer-songwriter in the 1960s and not be pulled into the turmoil of the decade especially in the United States. Even from across the Canadian border, the events that resonated in the U.S. had an impact on all songwriters. Gordon Lightfoot addresses the events of the Detroit Riots of the Summer of 1967 in his song “Black Day In July.” The song was released on the album Did She Mention My Name. The record was released in 1968.
# 6 – Rainy Day People
Continuing with our Top 10 Gordon Lightfoot song list we turn to the midpoint of the nineteen seventies. In 1975, Gordon Lightfoot released the album Cold Shoulder. The fabulous album contained one of Gordon Lightfoot’s greatest grooving songs in the track “Rainy Day People.” The song was released as a single from the album and had great success reaching all the way into the top 30 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1975.
# 5 – Ribbon Of Darkness / I’m Not Saying
The great song “Ribbon of Darkness” was a number one hit for Gordon Lightfoot in 1965, However, the song had achieved that number one status in it’s cover version performed by Marty Robbins. The song has been recorded by Gordon Lightfoot and mixed with the track “I’m Not Saying,” which pretty much shares the same melody but different lyrics.
# 4 – Song For A Winter’s Night
If this one does not define great folk music then I am at a loss for words. This brilliant Gordon Lightfoot song entitled “Song For A Winter Night,” was released in 1967 on the album The Way I Feel. It’s interesting to compare the original version released in 1967 to the one Gordon Lightfoot recorded for his greatest hits package entitled Gold in 1975. Only eight years later and Gordon’s voice seems much deeper than he had sounded in the 1960s.
# 3 – The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
The last three songs to appear on this top 10 Gordon Lightfoot songs list were by far the most successful songs he released in the United States. Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” was released in 1975. The song would become the second biggest hit of his career peaking at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States. The song hit number one on the Canadian music charts.
# 2 – If You Could Read My Mind
If you have to choose one Gordon Lightfoot song that you remember from the Classic Rock era, chances are it’s probably the classic song “If You Could Read My Mind.” The song was originally released on the album Sit Down Stranger. That album was released in 1970. The record company eventually changed the name of the album to If You Could Read My Mind based on the incredible success of the single. Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind,” was his first big success in the United States. It remains one of his most well-known songs.
# 1 – Sundown
We close out our top 10 Gordon Lightfoot songs list with our favorite Gordon Lightfoot song entitled “Sundown.” The song “Sundown,” also stands as Gordon Lightfoot’s most successful recording. The song hit number one in the United States on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1975. At a time when artists like Elton John and Paul McCartney were releasing big times songs and dominating the pop charts, hitting number one was no easy feat.
Updated May 2, 2023
Top 10 Gordon Lightfoot Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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