Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot, best known for folk-pop hits such as “If You Could Read My Mind” and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” died on Monday in a Toronto hospital, it was announced on his official Facebook page.
Canadian news outlets CTV and the CBC cited a family representative, Victoria Lord, as confirming his death. The cause was not immediately available.
Known for his evocative lyrics and melodic compositions, Lightfoot received five Grammy nominations over the years and won 17 Juno awards, Canada’s equivalent.
Lightfoot achieved the height of his popularity in the 1970s with songs from albums such as “Sundown,” “Summertime Dream” and “Dream Street Rose” that built on his guitar-driven folk roots to produce more rock and pop-oriented songs.
He retained a loyal following in Canada and the United States through extensive concert touring.
Lightfoot’s catalogue of compositions tops 200 songs, a number of which have been covered by such performers as Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand and Richie Havens. His “For Lovin’ Me” and “Early Morning Rain” became hits for the folk trio Peter, Paul & Mary.
Lightfoot emerged from the folk music movement of the mid-1960s with signature tunes such as “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” and “Pussywillows, Cat-Tails.” In the 1970s, he picked up an electric guitar to pen pop ballads such as “Beautiful” and “I’m Not Supposed to Care.”
Lightfoot’s 1976 epic “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” – about the drowning of 29 sailors when a freighter sank in a storm on Lake Superior – remains one of fans’ most loved songs. In it, Lightfoot coupled a soaring melody with poignant lyrics about the sailors’ last hours.
He also topped the singles charts with such hits as “Carefree Highway,” the ballad “If You Could Read My Mind,” his first major international hit, about a dissolving marriage, and two songs reportedly inspired by his volatile romance with backup singer and rock groupie Cathy Smith – “Sundown” and “Rainy Day People”.
Aside from writing lyrics and music, Lightfoot performed his songs in a warm tenor suited to ballads, though his voice grew thinner over the years, and was known for his clear articulation as a vocalist.