“The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot (1976)

19 12 2008

Gordon Lightfoot was one of your grandma’s favorite singer/songwriters.  He was a balladeer, singing compelling  stories that would suck you in if you let your guard down.  And I always found his deep, plaintive voice comforting and reassuring, even when he sang about tragedy, as in this song.

The SS Edmund Fitzgerald was a cargo ship on the Great Lakes.  A newer, very large ship that was considered by many to be almost unsinkable.  In 1975, the Edmund Fitzgerald, and all of her crew, vanished in a storm while crossing Lake Superior.  Mr. Lightfoot’s song is a beautiful, haunting tribute to the men who died that day, and to the vessel that’s still sitting somewhere on the bottom of the lake.

This was one of Mr. Lightfoot’s biggest-selling hits, and my understanding is that he set up a scholarship fund for the family members of the Edmund Fitzgerald’s crew using its royalties.  So the song remains a living and supportive tribute to those who died that day, and I think that’s a wonderful thing for a song to be.

The sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald is yet another reminder of where we humans stand in the pecking order of our planet.  In a struggle between man and nature, nature will always win.  Eventually.

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