Gordon Lightfoot

Early Morning Rain

Composed by Gordon Lightfoot

Song Review by

"Early Morning Rain" was the first Gordon Lightfoot composition to become a standard, and remains among his most famous and beloved works, even if no one managed to get a hit with it. "Early Morning Rain" has the lonesome yet stoic country-folk troubadour feel common to many Lightfoot works, with one of his most wistful and memorable melodies. It's a good setting for his lyric of a man apparently far from home, knowing no one and with little money. This ramblin', wanderin' man image prone to drowning his sorrows in the bottle was a stereotype found in much traditional folk. Yet Lightfoot did ground it in the 1960s by setting it in an airport, rather than a railroad yard or hobo camp. As he even notes with some irony near the end of the song, "you can't jump a jet plane like you can a freight train" -- a subtle mourning of the passing of the good old days in the Depression when you could ride the rails, perhaps. Lightfoot's own version, from his 1966 debut album, is plaintively acoustic and based around guitar, but several other major artists have tried their hand at the composition, usually in more ornate arrangements. Even before its release by Lightfoot, it had featured on the fifth album by Judy Collins, who was often first to spot and record material by emerging major singer-songwriters in the 1960s. It was also the title track of a 1965 album by fellow Canadians Ian & Sylvia, who actually added quite a bit to the song with their trademark close male-female harmonies. Other well-known versions were done by Peter, Paul & Mary (also in 1965), the Kingston Trio (also in 1965), Bob Dylan (who included it as one of several unlikely covers on his 1970 Self Portrait), and Elvis Presley (who didn't put out his version until the 1970s). A garage rock version of sorts that gave unusual harmonic twists to the melody was even recorded by the Grateful Dead as a demo in late 1965, though this wasn't officially released until 2001.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Lightfoot! 1966 Capitol / UMC 0:00
No Image 1970 United Artists Records
The Very Best of Gordon Lightfoot 1974 United Artists Records
Gord's Gold 1975 Reprise 3:18
The Original Lightfoot 1992 United Artists Records 3:08
The United Artists Collection 1993 EMI Music Distribution 3:04
Early Lightfoot/Sunday Concert 1994 Beat Goes On 3:08
Over 60 Minutes 1996 EMI Music Distribution
Songbook [Box Set] 1999 Rhino 3:04
Treasury of Folk: Folk Rock 1964-1968 1999
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 3:08
Singers & Songwriters: 1974-1975 [2000] 2000
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 0:00
No Image 2000
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 3:07
Washington Square Memoirs: The Great Urban Folk Boom, 1950-1970 2001
Various Artists
Rhino 3:06
The Complete Greatest Hits 2002 Rhino 3:07
Early Days of the Future: Adventures in West Coast Rock 2003
Various Artists
Prism Entertainment 3:08
The Very Best of Gordon Lightfoot, Vols. 1 & 2 [Beat Goes On] 2006 Beat Goes On 3:08
Troubadours: Folk and the Roots Of American Music, Pt. 4 2014
Various Artists
Bear Family Records 3:08
Drop the Needle on the Hits: Best of Gordon Lightfoot 2017 3:18