Biography by William Ruhlmann
Canadian Gordon Lightfoot first began to gain recognition in the mid-'60s as a songwriter when his compositions "For Lovin' Me" and "Early Morning Rain" became hits for Peter, Paul & Mary, and Marty Robbins topped the country charts with "Ribbon of Darkness." Lightfoot's own style was understated, his tasteful folk arrangements topped by a gentle burr of a voice. His albums began to appear in 1966, but it was not until the start of the '70s that he became a big success as a performer, scoring in 1970 with Sit Down Young Stranger, which contained his hit "If You Could Read My Mind," a song with a typically flowing melodic line and gently poetic lyrics.
Thereafter, the first half of the '70s were his. Lightfoot hit a peak in 1974 with Sundown, which went to number one, as did the title song when released on a single. Though he had developed a timeless style, Lightfoot was caught by the popular decline of folk-based music in the latter half of the 1970s, and has performed and recorded less frequently since, sometimes trying to conform to perceived commercial trends without success. But concert appearances in the early '90s confirmed that he remained an engaging performer and that his catalog of original songs was hard to match. A Painter Passing Through was released in 1998.
In 2002 Lightfoot suffered a near-fatal abdominal hemorrhage while performing in his hometown of Orillia, Ontario, causing him to cancel his fall tour. When he awoke from a coma weeks later, the tenacious artist immediately began picking tracks from the 18 demos he'd recorded in 2001 and urged his band to flesh them out in the studio. Harmony, his 20th album, was released in May of 2004
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