A native of Simcoe County, Gordon Lightfoot began his singing career by performing in and around Orillia. After remaining obscure for many years, he began to gain the recognition he deserved when the folk group, Peter, Paul and Mary, recorded one of his many (and popular) songs, (That’s what you get) For Lovin’ Me. His ‘rise to fame’ came quickly, following that recording, because, when he realized how popular his songs could be, he began recording them himself. Finally, after two best-selling records, The Way I Feel and Black Day in July, the recording industry and audiences everywhere in Canada proclaimed him to be our best and most original folksinger in recent years .
When I first heard Gordon in person two years ago  at North’s presentation of him, I was immensely impressed by his warm and touching imagery, his vivid histories, and his strongly sincere statements concerning life, love and loneliness.
These aspects of his poetry are always very prevalent as can be shown with reference to the song The Way I Feel. In this song, he compares a young bird to a woman and a tree to a young man’s heart, pointing out that a woman remains in a man’s heart, in warmth and comfort, for a short time, and then, she flies off, assumedly to another man’s heart. The words and music of this song are so charged with emotion that one cannot help feeling the sorrow and longing of the final five lines when he wishes that he had wings, too, so that he could follow her.
Another song similar to The Way I Feel is Home from the Forest, in which a lonely old man finally finds happiness in memories during his last hours on this cold planet. All the way through the song, Gordon gives the impression that he feels there are too many neglected people in this world just because no one takes the time to be friendly with them; it is as if he was giving an indirect social comment. This is a very realistic song, and again, the images are very warmly (and coldly) human.
His histories, like his love and loneliness songs, bring Gordon’s ideas and feelings very close to the heart. One of these songs, The Canadian Railroad Trilogy, makes history live again in one’s heart and mind; this is especially true when thought of in terms of the navvies’ part of the song, where they sing about their loved-ones, their work and their living conditions. Throughout the song, a sense of excitement can be felt as the railway men had felt it, and it is this fact that makes this song so popular and it remains the most significant song Gordon has ever written.
In conclusion, I should like to add that Gordon typifies the kind of poet I should like to become, for his songs are realistically clear, emotionally warm, and full of idealistic imagery. This is how I want my poems to be. Therefore, for this reason and all the reasons I have set down above, Gordon Lightfoot is my favourite poet for all time. (This was an essay I wrote in Grade 13 – I got an A+.)
Solo (to Gordon Lightfoot)
On his platform of existence,
In the harsh spotlight of cold-hearted criticism,
He shelters his soul the only way he can,
By building a melodic fence
Of barbed words and witticism.
He seems only a little tense,
As his soft tones circumvent the alienism
To show that he’s just like any other man,
Trying to make some logic, sense
Of his blunt marital schism.
He’s gone through personal penance,
Still wondering why all that he now has left is him,
Not knowing that, perhaps, the chorus he ran
Has warmed his captive audience
To the thought that they would miss him.
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Oh, did I forget to mention this? After I wrote my poem “Solo” I sent it to Lightfoot’s publishing company in Toronto.