Thirty five years ago, the SS Edmund Fitzgerald sank into Lake Superior.
A year later, you couldn’t go more than an hour before you’d hear Gordon Lightfoot’s six-minute history lesson called “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” on the radio.
It was awesome.
It’s a spooky little nugget filled with a few historical inaccuracies (some of which Lightfoot has even apologetically commented on) but it’s also filled with such compelling narrative that you’re locked in so tight throughout the entire song.
Play it for a kid, and I’ll bet you can see their brain move from all the visuals going on in their head.
The “big lake they call ‘Gitche Gumee’” line.
The defeated goodbye of “Fellas, it’s been good to know ya’.”
The church bells that rang 29 times.
Damn right it’s on the top five best songs about death, Laura’s dad edition.
When it was released, a friend of my folks (whom I’ve referenced before on this blog) bought a bunch of records one week, one of them happened to be Gordon Lightfoot’s Summertime Dream.
He was spellbound by “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,”and not just because the song was good.
It was also because it had relevance to him.
He was a member of the coast guard, and he would later be stationed in a lighthouse on Lake Michigan.
I’m sure that song played in his head a few times before the move to Michigan and probably a few times more when he had to face Mother Nature when the gales of November came early.