Gordon Lightfoot, the unforgettable troubadour who unfortunately has been too little known in Quebec

Gordon Lightfoot, the unforgettable troubadour who unfortunately is too little known in Quebec


Born in Ontario, Gordon Lightfoot was a larger than life Canadian artist. Performer, musician and songwriter, he had a captivating voice. His words and melodies take you to the heart, rip it out of you, then make you change it forever.

As proof, the announcement of his death on Monday at the age of 84 years has traveled the world. From Globe and Mail to Rolling Stone to Indiatimesand the BBC, the praise rocketed. A “legendary artist”. “Awesome”. “Bright”. The “Canadian Bard”. “The folk-rock troubadour”.

We remembered his greatest hits from a very long list: Early Morning Rain, If You Could Read My Mind< /em>, Carefree Highway, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald and many more.

The greatest artists have interpreted his songs, including Elvis himself, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Johnny Cash, Barbra Streisand and The Grateful Dead.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also paid tribute to him: “Gordon Lightfoot captured the spirit of our country in his music and, in doing so, contributed to Canada's soundscape.”

Nothing more universal indeed that the creators at first firmly rooted in their own complex identity.

Until last year, despite serious health problems, Gordon Lightfoot was still performing. Nothing seemed able to stop him. Except the grim reaper who, as we know, awaits us all one day.

Beyond the “two solitudes”

In Quebec, the media also reported the news of his death, but in fact, very little is known about the man, the artist and the extent of his work.

It is again the effect of the mythical “two solitudes”. The same phenomenon exists in reverse – few great Quebec artists are known and appreciated in the rest of the country.

Since my childhood in the Montreal neighborhood of Saint-Michel, already amply “diversified”, as we would say today, I have always thought that culture should nevertheless transcend political differences and the language barrier.

Either beyond our “solitudes”, culture, in all its forms, should bring people together without standardizing. That it can open the horizons of our minds and our hearts without erasing our disagreements.

Whether in Quebec or in the rest of Canada, not many of us believe in this principle. And above all, to apply it in our lives. At the same time, we are perhaps more so than we think. Who knows?

We live together

It reminded me of a great Gordon Lightfoot song. Less known than the others, he wrote and sang it half in English and half in French. The title, on the other hand, was in French only: We live together.

It was in the early 1970s. In the midst of the rise of the sovereignty movement. The message of his song was metaphorical, poignant and respectful of his fellow Quebecers. Despite even a destabilizing political context for the country he loved so much and embodied so well. 

Here is what he sang: “We live together. We know each other now. This is how we can discover another humanity. On the Plains of Abraham. At the last sacrifice. You and me, we slept way back in time. Remember the children who are still waiting. If you want me, I'll be there. That's all I have to say. Because don't get me wrong, I'm not deaf to the music you play.”

Gordon Lightfoot will be missed. Such. Go discover it or rediscover it. You won't come out unscathed. I wish you that his songs accompany you as they still accompany me.

 Gordon Lightfoot, the unforgettable troubadour who unfortunately has been too little known in Quebec