08 January 2010

Gordon Lightfoot, 2010

I have been listening incessantly to Gordon Lightfoot’s early albums, If You Could Read My Mind (1970) and Summer Side of Life (1971). I owned these two as vinyls, but . . . well, you know, I’ve replaced them with the compact disc versions.

In 1970, on WNEW-FM—the experimental free-form radio new to even New York— the early morning disc-jockey, Michael Harrison, played the albums’s first cut, “Minstrel of the Dawn” every morning as his theme. I dressed for the work day each morning to that song, and I think hearing it calmed me.

The minstrel of the dawn is here
To make you laugh and bend your ear
Up the steps you'll hear him climb
All full of thoughts, all full of rhymes
Listen to the pictures flow
Across the room into your mind they go
Listen to the strings
They jangle and dangle
While the old guitar rings

Even now, these sentiments would warm the beginning of the wintry-est day here in Wisconsin. And of course, “10 Degrees and Getting Colder” has visceral meaning to my life these mornings:

Now he's traded off his Martin but his troubles are not over 

For his feet are almost frozen and the sun is sinking low 

Won't you listen to me brother, if you ever loved your mother 

Please pull off on the shoulder if you're going Milwaukee way 

It's ten degrees and getting colder down by Boulder dam today

There was in these songs a hard freedom, unfulfilled longings and a palpable sense of loneliness. By so many versions of “Early Morning Rain” have I been touched with sadness and regret; how many times I’ve sung that song to myself in my moments of longing and melancholy.

And the honey voice and the baby face.

Why Lightfoot now, and why incessantly? What Desire is being fulfilled here? Perhaps it is in the weather, the time of year, the time of life. Not nostalgia, for I do not long to be back there, but somehow, back there helps define right here now. The complexities were different and yes, I was younger and immortal. And Gordon Lightfoot recovers that for me.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


12 January, 2010 16:53  

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