Gord

I have musical heroes as no doubt you do. I saw Gordon Lightfoot in concert at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa in 1972. He was 34. I was 23. He sang into my soul. My favourite song was Did She Mention My Name? And it still is.

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?

Did she mention my name just in passing?
And when the morning came
Do you remember if she dropped a name or two?
Is the home team still on fire? Do they still win all the games?
And by the way, did she mention my name?

Ahh, yes. I so much wanted to be loved. I so much wanted a love. And Gord spoke right to me of the longing.

Tonight I sit in Hugh’s Room in Toronto. It’s an intimate venue of folk music – the songs of the people. In an hour, musicians will step onto the stage for The Way We Feel: A Tribute to Gordon Lightfoot. We’ll hear Gord’s songs, and if we’re lucky, the man himself will join us for a few tunes. To hear the singer-songwriter who’s sold out huge halls for sixty years in a room of 200 would be such a blessing.

I’ll be fine if Gord doesn’t show up but what a privilege if he does. Hugh’s Room has hosted these four tribute evenings in a row for fifteen years. Every time, Mr. Lightfoot has appeared a couple of times. Maybe this is my lucky night.

I want to applaud someone who has created such beauty. But really we all do that, in different ways. Perhaps I need to applaud all human beings. We all struggle. We all overcome. We all could have songs written about us.

It’s intermission now and Gord’s poetry has filled the room. Such as On a Winter’s Night with You:

The lamp is burnin’ low upon my table top
The snow is softly fallin’
The air is still in the silence of my room
I hear your voice softly callin’

If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
On this winter’s night with you

Or how about the bittersweet Affair on Eighth Avenue?

And our fingers entwined like ribbons of light
And we came through a doorway somewhere in the night

Her long flowing hair came softly undone
And it lay all around
And she brushed it down as I stood by her side
In the warmth of her love

There have been seven or eight singers so far and what’s true, beyond their prime musicianship, is their love for Gord. I share that love. What gifts he’s given to folks eager to hear. Generations of Canadians and world citizens have been slowed and then stopped by his words of the heart:

Rain is falling on the meadow
Where once my love and I did lie
Now she is gone from the meadow
My love goodbye

Ribbon of darkness over me
Where once the world was young as spring
Where flowers did bloom and birds did sing
Ribbon of darkness over me

Here in this cold room lyin’
Don’t want to see no one but you
Lord I wish I could be dyin’
To forget you

Oh how I wish your heart could see
How mine just aches and breaks all day
Come on home and take away
This ribbon of darkness over me

The band is coming back to the stage. And my writing feels done for the day. I’ll tell you tomorrow if Gord came by to say hi.

***

Hello, everyone. It’s tomorrow. No Gord last night. (Sigh) But the singers and players onstage created miracles in song.

I can’t help it … I just have to share more lyrics with you:

Early Mornin’ Rain

In the early mornin’ rain
With a dollar in my hand
With an aching in my heart
And my pockets full of sand
I’m a long ways from home
And I miss my loved ones so
In the early mornin’ rain
With no place to go

***

Pussywillows, Cattails, Soft Winds and Roses

Pussywillows, cattails, soft winds and roses
Rainbows in the woodland, water to my knees
Shivering, quivering, the warmth breath of spring
Pussywillows, cattails, soft winds and roses

Catbirds and cornfields, daydreams together
Riding on the roadside, the dust gets in your eyes
Revelling, dishevelling, the summer nights can bring
Pussywillows, cattails, soft winds and roses

***

If You Could Read My Mind

I never knew I felt this way
And I’ve got to say that I just don’t get it
I don’t know where we went wrong
But the feeling’s gone and I just can’t get it back

If you could read my mind, love
What a tale my thoughts could tell
Just like a oldtime movie about a ghost from a wishing well
In a castle dark or a fortress strong
With chains upon my feet
The story always ends
And if you read between the lines
You’ll know that I’m just trying to understand
The feeling that you left

***

The Long River

Where the long river flows
It flows by my window
Where the tall timber grows
It grows ’round my door
Where the mountains meet the sky
And the white clouds fly
Where the long river flows
By my window

There’s a tiny bird that calls
And he calls by my window
There’s a lonely tear that falls
And it falls ’round my door
But when the sun is high
There’s no time to cry
Where the long river flows
By my window

***

Oh, Gord … from where did your words come?
Thank you, dear sir, for shining a light on our lives

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