Friday, November 11, 2011

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

I'm old enough to remember both the news reports of the sinking of Great Lakes freighter "The Edmund Fitzgerald," and the hit song about it by Canadian singer/songwriter Gordon Lightfoot. The EF went down in a wicked November storm on Lake Superior thirty-six year ago yesterday, claiming twenty-nine men. Lightfoot's song was an unlikely hit, clocking in at about six minutes. The lyrics provide almost a journalistic account of the sinking and on the page look far too wordy for radio, let alone the makings of a hit. Just imagine someone telling you to write a song incorporating the mouthful of syllables of the eponymous boat in each chorus. Lightfoot pulled it off. In many ways, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" is the quintessential story-song, perhaps even deserving of being called (as it often has been) "epic."

According to interviews, the seventy-two year old Lightfoot regards the song as by far his best work and has played it at every show since he first wrote it. One day late of the anniversary of the EF's last voyage--it's a good song for remembering loss and sacrifice.

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