Song of the Day: Gordon Lightfoot – “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”

Here’s a popular song that has been revered and lampooned. Released 41 years ago this month, this song hit No. 2 in the U.S. and No. 1 in Lightfoot’s home country of Canada. I was reminded of it lately as I recently went to the National Museum of the Great Lakes in Toledo, one of multiple places you can see remains of the actual Edmund Fitzgerald. It was a devastating shipwreck in Great Lakes history, one Lightfoot once said in an Reddit AMA he wanted to give more attention (per Songfacts): “The Edmund Fitzgerald really seemed to go unnoticed at that time, anything I’d seen in the newspapers or magazines were very short, brief articles, and I felt I would like to expand upon the story of the sinking of the ship itself. And it was quite an undertaking to do that, I went and bought all of the old newspapers, got everything in chronological order, and went ahead and did it because I already had a melody in my mind and it was from an old Irish dirge that I heard when I was about three and a half years old.” Lightfoot, especially melodically, struck the right chord with this song when it came to painting a picture of this tragedy.

Not everyone thinks that highly of the song, however… One band to do a fierce parody of the song is NRBQ, who performed the song live in a mocking manner as frontman Terry Adams sung the lyrics straight from a songbook then later pretended to doze off on stage. Anyone who doesn’t like the Lightfoot version will like that one better. Click here to watch.

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