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Canada's Folk Music Legend, Gordon Lightfoot Dies at Toronto Hospital

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By Oscar Blair - - 5 Mins Read

Gordon Lightfoot, an iconic figure in Canadian folk music known for his expressive and lyrical compositions that have become an integral part of the country's musical heritage, has passed away at 84 years old, as confirmed by his enduring publicist Victoria Lord.

According to Lord, Lightfoot passed away on Monday evening at a hospital in Toronto. The reason for his death is currently unknown.

At 7:30 p.m. on Monday, May 1, 2023, Gordon passed away peacefully at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto due to natural causes. He was 84 years old.

Surviving Lightfoot is his spouse, Kim Hasse, and six children - Fred, Ingrid, Eric, Galen, Miles, and Meredith - as well as numerous grandchildren.

During the 1960s Yorkville folk club scene in Toronto, Lightfoot was recognized as one of the most prominent voices. He subsequently recorded a minimum of 20 studio albums, featuring songs such as "Early Morning Rain," "If You Could Read My Mind," and "Sundown."

Bob Dylan once referred to Lightfoot as a "rare talent," and his compositions have been covered by numerous artists, including Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand, and Sarah McLachlan.

Due to health concerns, Lightfoot canceled all of his scheduled concerts for 2023 in mid-April. A statement released by his representatives at the time mentioned that the 84-year-old singer was facing "some health-related issues," but did not provide any further details. 

Lightfoot had originally planned to perform over a dozen shows across Arizona, California, and Florida in April, June, and September, as well as a rescheduled show in Kitchener, Ontario, in October.

His songs delve deep into his personal experiences, delving into topics of national identity and personal struggles.

In 1962, Lightfoot gained popularity on the radio with his hit single "(Remember Me) I'm the One."

By 1965, Lightfoot's fame had spread to the United States thanks to the success of "I'm Not Sayin'," which topped the charts in Canada.

Lightfoot Reached The Height of His Popularity In The Mid-1970s, Leading To His Induction Into The Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

Lightfoot's shift from folk music to pop was underway as the folk music boom dwindled in the late 1960s. In 1971, he entered the Billboard charts with "If You Could Read My Mind," a poignant exploration of a crumbling marriage, which peaked at No. 5 and has been covered countless times. 

Another notable track was "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" from 1975, which recounted the tragic sinking of a Great Lakes ore carrier, while "Canadian Railroad Trilogy" from 1966 depicted the building of the railway.

Lightfoot reached the height of his popularity in the mid-1970s with the success of his single and album, "Sundown," which both reached the top of the Billboard charts, marking his sole achievement in this regard.

Gordon Lightfoot sings with a guiter

Throughout his career, he amassed a total of 12 Juno awards, one of which he received in 1970 when it was still known as the Gold Leaf award. He also received four Grammy nominations, a citation for the Order of Canada in 1970, and was later elevated to the rank of Companion of the Order of Canada in 2003.

In recognition of his contributions to the Canadian music industry, he was inducted into the Canadian Recording Industry Hall of Fame, now known as the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, in 1986.

Issues Related to Health

In 2002, he experienced an aortic aneurysm and subsequently entered a coma. He underwent surgery and a lengthy rehabilitation period that persisted for two and a half years.

Following a minor stroke in 2006, he had temporary difficulty playing the guitar with his right hand. Nevertheless, he persisted with touring, aided by a rigorous exercise routine.

Despite additional health setbacks, including a fall at home in 2021 that resulted in postponed shows, Lightfoot continued to perform live. Just four months later, he took to the stage for a three-night performance that marked the reopening of Toronto's renovated Massey Hall, launching another tour that extended well into the following year.