If reassurance had been wanted that Gordon Lightfoot’s admiring viewers continued to revere his formative work in addition to his later hits, it arrived on the 2017 version of the Polaris Music Prize. Awarded yearly for the most effective Canadian album, the occasion has latterly been prolonged to acknowledge the nation’s musical historical past. At that 12 months’s occasion, the general public vote for the Heritage Prize within the 1960–1975 class went to the good singer-songwriter’s debut album Lightfoot!
The LP, recorded late in 1964 when Lightfoot was 26 however not launched till spring 1966, is a captivating doc of the early days of one of many really nice songwriter-performers. The Ontario native was performing and writing from an early age, instructing himself guitar and singing regionally earlier than spending two years finding out at Westlake School of Music in Hollywood. Whereas there, he wrote and sang radio jingles, earlier than returning to Canada in 1960.
Lightfoot then sang in Toronto with the Singin’ Swingin’ Eight and gravitated to recording two very nation and western-leaning singles in Nashville in 1962, produced, no much less, by Chet Atkins. Each had been native Canadian hits, even when the singer later mentioned: “The overall feeling was that the songs sounded an excessive amount of like Jim Reeves or Pat Boone. Deciding to not comply with that route, I selected to gamble on the folks revival of the early ’60s and started working in bars and coffeehouses.”
In 1963, he traveled to the UK and appeared repeatedly on the BBC’s The Nation and Western Present (“Singer/guitarist: Gordie Lightfoot,” ran his billing for the sequence, which sadly seems to have been wiped from the archives). The only “Day Earlier than Yesterday” was launched within the UK to coincide. Returning dwelling once more, Lightfoot’s status grew in tandem together with his songbook, which might quickly add a composition that remained a signature for his total, epic profession.
“Early Morning Rain” was knowledgeable by Lightfoot’s days within the US in 1960, when he would sometimes develop homesick and watch the jets taking off from Los Angeles Worldwide Airport. In 1964, he resolved to write down him a tune on the theme. “Hear the mighty engines roar, see the silver wing on excessive,” he wrote. “She’s away and westward certain, far above the clouds she’ll fly.”
Canadian folks and nation figureheads Ian & Sylvia had been the primary (of greater than 125 artists and counting) to document the tune. They launched their model because the title observe of their Could 1965 LP on Vanguard, which reached No.77 on the Billboard chart.
Different notable folks artists had been fast to listen to the potential of the evocative, craving “Early Morning Rain.” Peter, Paul & Mary, Judy Collins, and the Kingston Trio all lined it in 1965, earlier than Lightfoot’s personal model appeared on the Lightfoot! album, which got here out on United Artists in April 1966, after Canadian commerce journal RPM had named him Prime People Singer of 1965. His longtime presence on the circuit was underlined way back to October 1964, when RPM described him as an “outdated trouper,” and in March 1965 as “a well-known title round Toronto for a few years.”
Others to document “Early Morning Rain” in later years included Julie Felix, Jerry Lee Lewis, and, on his Studio 154 covers set, Paul Weller. Bob Dylan, an avowed fan of Lightfoot’s total catalog, paid him the large praise of chopping it in a Spanish-guitar lullaby type for his Self Portrait album of 1970.
However there was one other studying that was an particularly massive deal for Lightfoot. “That is the one which Elvis lined,” he mentioned, within the notes for 1999’s Songbook compilation. Presley included it on 1972’s Elvis Now, and sometimes in his stay reveals. “I’m actually pleased with the truth that he recorded it,” continued Lightfoot. “He associated to it completely.”
However “Early Morning Rain” was not the one tune from the debut LP that had, by then, loved nice success elsewhere. Nation nice Marty Robbins launched his tackle “Ribbon Of Darkness” as a Columbia single in March 1965 and noticed it change into his eleventh nation No.1. Later readings included these by Conway Twitty, Connie Smith, and Don McLean. Trade observers started to talk of the Canadian’s trademark “nation and Lightfoot” type.
Lightfoot’s personal “Ribbon Of Darkness” was one in all two single releases in Canada that preceded his first album; its B-side, emphasizing the shut inventive connections between Lightfoot and Dylan, was a model of the latter’s “Simply Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” which loved Canadian success, reaching No.3 on the RPM chart. The only earlier than that was “I’m Not Sayin,’” a No.12 hit in his homeland.
Different highlights of Lightfoot! included “For Loving Me,” which once more paved the best way for the LP when Peter, Paul and Mary’s studying made the Prime 5 of Billboard’s Grownup Up to date chart in 1965. “Essentially the most chauvinistic tune I ever wrote,” mirrored Lightfoot, “however, however, Peter Yarrow [of Peter, Paul & Mary] noticed one thing in it, a tongue-in-cheek kind of method to the scenario.
“Fortuitously for me, it turned a giant hit,” he went on. “I used to be completely satisfied to have been part of their profession. It was their recording, together with Ian & Sylvia’s assist, that opened some doorways in New York Metropolis that received me the place I wished to go.” Certainly, Lightfoot appeared on the identical invoice with each acts on the 1965 Newport People Competition, which went down in historical past because the setting for Dylan’s first electrical efficiency.
Predominantly a automobile for his personal subtle songwriting, the 14-track album, produced by John Courtroom, however included three covers: Ewan MacColl’s celebrated “The First Time Ever I Noticed Your Face,” Phil Ochs’ “Adjustments,” and Hamilton Camp’s “Satisfaction Of Man,” later chosen by Quicksilver Messenger Service for his or her eponymous debut LP of 1968. Lightfoot was accompanied on his first longform studio outing primarily by second guitarist David Rea and bassist Invoice Lee (father of filmmaker Spike), with Bruce Langhorne contributing guitar to 2 tracks.
Reviewing Lightfoot! within the April 30, 1966 situation, Billboard wrote: “This album will definitely increase Gordon Lightfoot’s recognition all through the world, particularly with folks followers. He delivers his message with deft and convincing type. A robust author, lots of the tunes he does right here equivalent to ‘Early Morning Rain’ and ‘Ribbon Of Darkess’ had been hits by different artists.”
Earlier than the album’s launch, Lightfoot performed Canadian reveals after which traveled to the UK for 11 dates with Ian & Sylvia and David Rey. In the meantime, his songs had been attracting ever extra covers, together with new ones by George Hamilton IV and John D. Loudermilk, and Lightfoot was among the many artists showing on a TV profit selection present with Bing Crosby. As he made plans for his second album, his star was very a lot within the ascendancy.
Purchase or stream Lightfoot! on Apple Music and Spotify.