Gordon Lightfoot

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Composed by Gordon Lightfoot

Song Review by

Signing to Warner Brothers in the early '70s, Lightfoot was the beneficiary of the contemporary California studio sound made by producers like Joe Wissert, Lenny Waronker, and Russ Titleman. Being a folk artist from the '60s, Lightfoot acclimated himself quite nicely to the changing music scene. This is one of the more engrossing story songs. While a lot of the later listeners may have thought this tale came from the fecund mind of Lightfoot, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" was inspired by real-life tragic events. Lightfoot takes the role of the messenger here. That fact is important; if he took the perspective of a crew-member or captain, the effect might have been too overwrought. Every step of the way here the crack musicianship helps to tell the story. The guitar riff, insistent and oh-so mid-'70s, is the hook that will keep listeners coming back for more. Despite the serious subject matter, Lightfoot's enunciation and inflection on phrases like "the big lake they called Gitche Gumee" and "Fellas it's been good t' know ya" might cause some intentional laughter. But at its core, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" takes you to a gloomy, gray day where 29 were lost at sea. This was the leadoff and most successful single from 1975's Summertime Dream. Musically and lyrically this is one of the strongest songs in the singer/songwriter genre.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
No Image 1976 Rhino / Warner Bros. 5:57
Songbook 1985 Rhino / Warner Bros. 6:32
Gord's Gold, Vol. 2 1988 Warner Bros. 6:14
Songbook [Box Set] 1999 Rhino 6:28
The Complete Greatest Hits 2002 Rhino 6:29
Greatest Hits Live 2003 Dfp
Rhino Hi-Five: Gordon Lightfoot 2005 Rhino / Warner Bros. 6:32
All Live 2012 Warner Music 6:31
blue highlight denotes editor's pick