Sometimes you go to an event and expect one thing, but end up with something better. This happened when my husband Randy bought two tickets to hear Gordon Lightfoot. I knew I’d see a good show from one of my all-time favorite folk singers. What I didn’t expect was to be reminded of three poignant life lessons…
Gordon Lightfoot Then And Now
Mortality catches up to all. When the band assembled on stage, I half-expected to see the Gordon Lightfoot of my school days. I was ready for that burly, Canadian hunk from the album covers. Instead, a thin, elderly gentleman stepped up to the mic, looking frail. His brown hair came down to his shoulders. I even wondered if he could make it through the next few hours, entertaining. But then I remembered at 83, he’d been doing this over half a century.
Gordon started with “Did She Mention My Name?” Although he could hit the notes, the power of his voice was gone. The audience started singing along, as if to help. I thought Gordon’s brown eyes looked grateful. How time catches up to all of us.
“It’s so nice to meet an old friend and pass the time of day
And talk about the hometown a million miles away
Is the ice still on the river, are the old folks still the same
And by the way, did she mention my name?”
Music Evokes Memories
Gordon performed many tunes that brought back high school and college, like “Sundown,” “Carefree Highway” and “Beautiful.” But when he sang “If You Could Read My Mind,” I really felt the passage of time. Sophomore year in high school, I’d listen to that ballad and Gordon’s husky baritone embodied girlhood fantasies of travelling troubadours, castles, and lost love.
In college, my boyfriend Randy and I would drive along Connecticut’s gravelly beaches, past Long Island Sound. Sometimes this song would play on the radio. I hear it now and I’m brought back to his yellow Mercury capri and passing a Marlboro back and forth, sometimes singing along.
“If you could read my mind, love
What a tale my thoughts could tell
Just like an old time movie
‘Bout a ghost from a wishing well”
Once An Artist, Always An Artist
Even at 83, Gordon stood for 2 hours and performed hit after hit with no one singing or harmonizing along. He was charming and funny. At one point, a woman called out “Edmond Fitzgerald!” and he quipped, “That’s coming, darling. Be patient.” Everyone laughed. I’d seen from YouTube videos how he’d been doing this six decades, a born performer often in front of thousands, sometimes more. I sensed Gordon will do this till he’s not able do it anymore. He’ll go with his boots on, so to speak.
His last song, “Rainy Day People” got me sniffling. I’d been hearing this 1975 ballad as a thread throughout my life–a college student, newlywed, young mother and now with two bearded, adult sons. Thankfully, I’ve known some Rainy Day people along the way.
“Rainy day people always seem to know when it’s time to call
Rainy day people don’t talk, they just listen till they’ve heard it all
Rainy day lovers don’t lie when they tell ‘ya they’ve been down like you
Rainy day people don’t mind if you’re cryin’ a tear or two”
Before we knew it, Gordon took his bows and was gone. The lights came on. Randy and I stood there blinking, back to 2022. We were both grayer (well, he is, I dye my hair) and creakier than in our college days. I wanted to thank Gordon for a lifetime of memories.
We walked out of the theater and although I knew I’d love this concert, I hadn’t expected to be so moved, so reminded of how fast the years go, how beautiful and full life was and still is. Outside on the sidewalk, fanning ourselves in the summer heat, I found myself still sniffling.