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If you could read my mind

May 2, 2023

You’d probably guess what I’m thinking about today. Actually, if you’re Canadian you wouldn’t need to read my mind at all. 

My first concert in Toronto at Massey Hall when I was in my teens was Gordon Lightfoot. Yes, he was cute as a button back then, but it certainly wasn’t just that. That voice, those songs, those lyrics.

Canada’s troubadour, who, unlike Joni and Neil, stayed put, who never left the country of his birth.

Yesterday when the news of Lightfoot’s death broke, a friend wrote the following on Facebook: “I don’t think you’re allowed to be Canadian if you don’t have a Gordon Lightfoot moment, so here’s mine. Amsterdam 2003, half a dozen displaced Canadians, almost Canadians and wannabe Canadians gather one evening to catch up, gossip and share a meal. Music is played. Wine is drunk. At some point chatting turns to thoughts of home. Canada, that is. More wine is drunk and, inevitably, the Gordon Lightfoot collection is hauled out, because there’s nothing more Canadian than Gordon Lightfoot. How do we know this? Every single person knows every single song. So we ate, and drank and sang all the songs. What a gift he left us. Not just the music, but the gift of connecting us to each other by singing his songs together. Magic.”

I was one of the people in Amsterdam that night, living back in London then and visiting friends made whilst working for Greenpeace in Vancouver. The others were also Greenpeace Canada alumni, then working for GPI in Amsterdam. I remembered the weekend (it was the weekend of the global marches against the prospect of war in Iraq), but I’d forgotten that particular night until I read her post. Then it came flooding back. Yes, a very Canadian night.

I think I’ve mentioned that sometimes when we’re out for walks Joe and I will start singing some song. (Well, he sings and I do what barely passes for singing.) On more than one occasion, this has been the song we’ve sung.

I suspect we might end up singing it again this afternoon.

Thank you, Mr Lightfoot. Thank you for everything.

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