Gordon Lightfoot

I'm Not Sayin'

Composed by Gordon Lightfoot

Song Review by

"I'm Not Sayin'" was one of Gordon Lightfoot's better early songs, and one of the better ones on his debut album, an effort that included several outstanding compositions (such as "Early Morning Rain," "The Way I Feel," and "Ribbon of Darkness"). "I'm Not Sayin'" boasted his characteristic somber yet appealing melodic sense, with a touch of country longing coloring what was essentially a romantic folk ballad. For a romantic song, however, "I'm Not Sayin'" boasts some uncommonly reserved distance. Most of the song, indeed, is Lightfoot warning -- albeit in about as gentle a tone as possible -- that he isn't quite able to say he loves his woman, or cares, or will be there, or can give his heart to her, or will be faithful, or will be sorry for making her cry. But, he adds as some small consolation, he'll try. Since that amounts to a checklist of what most of us would value most highly in a partner, his frank unwillingness to commit to any such emotions might seem disagreeable, to say the least, if the lyrics are examined in the cold light of day minus Lightfoot's musical accompaniment. But it did fit in with the '60s image of the folk troubadour as footloose and wanderin', and not beholden to the usual standards of straight society. Lightfoot's recording was, like everything on his debut LP, basic, with only acoustic guitar and bass. It had actually been preceded in 1965 by a cover on the debut single by Nico, recorded in Britain and produced by then-sessionman Jimmy Page, well before she joined the Velvet Underground. Nico's version is given light orchestration and a pop-folk arrangement, much in the style often used by Marianne Faithfull on her mid-1960s recordings. It's a nice record, if a little odd given Nico's low and accented moon goddess vocals, but was a flop when originally issued. It's become fairly well known, though, as Nico's sole pre-Velvet Underground recording after being reissued several times.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Lightfoot! 1966 Capitol / UMC 2:31
No Image 1970 United Artists Records
The Very Best of Gordon Lightfoot 1974 United Artists Records
Early Morning Rain: The Best of Gordon Lightfoot 1976 EMI-Capitol Special Markets / CEMA Special Markets 2:31
Songbook 1985 Pair
The Best of Gordon Lightfoot 1989 Curb 2:34
The Original Lightfoot 1992 United Artists Records 2:30
The United Artists Collection 1993 EMI Music Distribution 2:30
No Image 1993 Time/Life Music 2:30
Lightfoot!/The Way I Feel 1994 Bear Family Records
Early Lightfoot/Sunday Concert 1994 Beat Goes On 2:31
Over 60 Minutes 1996 EMI Music Distribution
Singer Songwriter 2001 EMI Music Distribution 2:30
Classic Masters 2003 Collectables 2:32
The Very Best of Gordon Lightfoot, Vols. 1 & 2 [Beat Goes On] 2006 Beat Goes On 2:31
Best Of 2016 Capitol / Universal 2:31
Early Lightfoot
blue highlight denotes editor's pick