CBC Digital Archives CBC butterfly logo

CBC Archives has a new look: Please go to cbc.ca/archives to access the new site.

The page you are looking at will not be updated.

Gordon Lightfoot: The legend lives on

The Story

The auditorium is abuzz. Many of Canada's best songwriters are here. But it is a promised appearance by Gordon Lightfoot that has the crowd on edge. Lightfoot suffered a near-fatal abdominal hemorrhage last year. Many doubted the legend would live to see his inevitable induction into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. In this clip from CBC Radio's OnStage, we hear that Lightfoot himself wasn't sure he'd be around for the ceremony. First, Lightfoot is eloquently introduced by rocker Tom Cochrane. Lightfoot, he says, is to Canadians what James Joyce is to the Irish and Robbie Burns is to the Scots. "We couldn't imagine what Canada would be like without you," Cochrane tells Lightfoot, who enters to hoots and a long ovation. The guest of honour is reflective, paying tribute to his early boosters. But Lightfoot then looks ahead, revealing that he is eager to finish his next album. 

Medium: Radio
Program: OnStage
Broadcast Date: Dec. 7, 2003
Guest(s): Tom Cochrane, Gordon Lightfoot
Duration: 7:11

Did You know?

• Rumours had swirled about Lightfoot's health since his 2002 hospitalization. Until he appeared onstage at Toronto's Glenn Gould Studio, some in the standing-room only crowd did not believe he was well enough to attend. The Lightfoot tribute came last at the two-hour Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame gala. Tom Cochrane sang a version of Lightfoot's Early Morning Rain. The band Blue Rodeo closed the show with its take on If You Could Read My Mind.

• Lightfoot worked on a new record, Harmony, during his three-month hospital stay. Vocal and guitar tracks recorded prior to his illness became the album's foundation. His band members recorded other parts at a studio near his hospital, saved their work on CD and delivered them daily to his bedside. The video for Harmony's first single, Inspiration Lady, was released in March 2004. The album was released May 11, 2004.

• Lightfoot was the only living songwriter among five honoured at the first-ever Songwriters Hall of Fame gala held Dec. 3, 2003. The posthumous inductees were early 1900s lyricist Alfred Bryan, country singer Hank Snow and Quebec artists Félix Leclerc and Madame Bolduc. Twelve Canadian-penned songs were also honoured, including Red River Valley, Snowbird, The Blackfly Song, Aquarius and the hymn What a Friend We Have in Jesus.

• The Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame was founded in 1998 as a non-profit organization by Canadian music publisher Frank Davies. Its mission is to honour Canadian songwriters and those who contribute to their legacy. There are plans to establish a hall of fame website and, later, a museum with Canadian songwriting exhibits.

• Past honours for Lightfoot include 17 Juno awards and being inducted into both the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame. He was made a Companion of the Order of Canada and won a Governor General's Performing Arts Award. By 2003, Lightfoot had recorded 19 albums and more than 200 songs.


Gordon Lightfoot: Canada's Folk Laureate more