Friday, May 30, 2008

If You Could Read My Mind, Gordon Lightfoot (1970)

I don't know where we went wrong but the feeling's gone and I just can't get it back

The sorrow of departing love has never been distilled to such powerful effect as in singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot's signature ballad If You Could Read My Mind. It's one of those songs that instantly taps into the boundless reservoir of pain and confusion that invariably accompanies a disintegrating romance.

A comment on the web site likely sums up what many have thought: "Anyone who ever sat down with a guitar and a pen and paper would make a deal with the devil to come away with this masterpiece." It is that kind of song - starkly, unflinchingly honest yet so poetic, lending itself to endless interpretation and with timeless appeal.

Although Lightfoot moved to California for a time to study music in depth, he is one of the few Canadian artists who didn't need to succeed first here to achieve validation in his own country, where he is often described as a national treasure.

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, Lightfoot performed as a boy soprano on radio, in oratorio and operetta, and sang in a barbershop quartet as a teenager, before honing his youthful voice into the singular baritone he's known for today - a sound, together with the sterling musicianship of his songwriting, that set the tone for the early '70s acoustic music scene.


Josh said...

What a great song. I was thinking about Gordon a lot in recent days because of our discussion about the Edmond Fitzgerald. You're right about the mood he captures here. I can't think of another song that describes the sadness in before one lyric is sung like this one.

Linda G said...

Finally catching up on my blog reading. This one touched a chord...especially the lyric you quoted...then and now.

Wade said...

Wendy, catching up on some of your earlier posts I missed. Gordon Lightfoot is criminally overlooked,and this song is spot-on beautiful. Dylan gave him a shout-out in a recent interview, which I was glad to see.