Gordon Meredith Lightfoot, Jr. (born November 17, 1938) is a Canadian singer-songwriter who achieved international success in folk, folk-rock, and country music, and has been credited for helping define the folk-pop sound of the 1960s and 1970s.
He has been referred to as Canada’s greatest songwriter and internationally as a folk-rock legend. Lightfoot was born in Orillia, Ontario, son of the manager of a large dry cleaning firm. H
is mother recognized Lightfoot’s musical talent and schooled him into a successful child performer.
His first public tune was “Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral” (an Irish lullaby) in grade four, which was broadcast over his school’s public address system on a parents’ day event.
As a youth, he sang, under the direction of choirmaster Ray Williams, in the choir of Orillia’s St. Paul’s United Church.
According to Lightfoot, Williams taught him how to sing with emotion and how to have confidence in his voice.
Lightfoot was a boy soprano; he appeared periodically on local radio in the Orillia area, performed in local operettas and oratorios, and gained exposure through various Kiwanis music festivals.
He was twelve when he made his first appearance at Massey Hall in Toronto, after winning a competition for boys whose voices had not yet changed.
Lightfoot moved to California in 1958, where he studied jazz composition and orchestration for two years at Hollywood’s Westlake College of Music, which had many Canadian students.
To support himself, he sang on demonstration records and wrote, arranged, and produced commercial jingles.
He was influenced by the folk music of Pete Seeger, Bob Gibson, Ian and Sylvia Tyson, and The Weavers.
He rented a place in Los Angeles for a time, but missed Toronto and moved back in 1960.
He has lived in Canada since then, though he has done much work in the United States, all under an H-1B visa.
In 1965 Lightfoot signed a management contract with Albert Grossman, who also represented Bob Dylan.
That same year, he signed a recording contract with United Artists and released his own version of “I’m Not Saying” as a single.
Appearances at the Newport Folk Festival, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and New York’s Town Hall increased his following and his reputation.
In 1966, he released his debut album Lightfoot!, which brought him increased recognition as both a singer and a songwriter.
It featured many now-famous songs, including “For Lovin’ Me,” “Early Mornin’ Rain,” “Steel Rail Blues,” and “Ribbon of Darkness”.
On the strength of the Lightfoot! album, which mixed Canadian and universal themes, Lightfoot became one of the first Canadian singers to achieve real stardom in his own country without having to move to the United States.
In June of 2012 Lightfoot’s legacy was further enhanced when he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame. Lightfoot was honored for his role in defining the folk-pop sound of the 1960s and ’70s.
There are fewer than 400 inductees who make up the impressive roster enshrined in the Songwriters Hall of Fame including Barry Mann, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Hal David and Burt Bacharach, John Fogerty, Bob Dylan, Isaac Hayes, Carole King, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Sir Elton John, Bernie Taupin, Brian Wilson, James Taylor, James Brown, Bruce Springsteen, Jim Croce, Phil Collins, Loretta Lynn, Jimmy Webb, Van Morrison, Kris Kristofferson, Dolly Parton, Diane Warren, Garth Brooks, Leon Russell and Leonard Cohen.