Gordon Lightfoot, the Canadian singer-songwriter whose hits “Sundown” and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” helped to define folk rock, died Monday evening at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto of natural causes, his publicist Victoria Lord confirmed to ABC News. He was 84.
Lightfoot’s rise to fame began in the mid-1960s with folk classics such as “Early Morning Rain” and “For Loving Me.” His first U.S. hit came in 1970 with “If You Could Read My Mind,” which made it to #12 on the Billboard charts. He followed that up with 1974’s “Sundown” — his only song to reach #1 in both Canada and the U.S. — as well as the top 10 “Carefree Highway” that same year. In 1976, he reached #2 with “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”
He served as an inspiration for other Canadian songwriters, including Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. Another admirer was Bob Dylan, who appeared at the 1986 Juno Awards — Canada’s equivalent of the Grammys — to induct Lightfoot into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.
Lightfoot dealt with several health issues throughout his career. Facial paralysis from Bell’s palsy sidelined him in the early ‘70s, while alcohol abuse led him to quit drinking in 1982. That same year, he experienced an abdominal aortic aneurysm and spent six weeks in a coma. Lightfoot went on to recover and release his final studio album, 2004’s Harmony, recorded before he fell ill.
In 2023, Lightfoot canceled a string of concert dates for unspecified health reasons.
Fellow Canadian singer-songwriter Bryan Adams mourned Lightfoot on Twitter, writing, “Once in a blue moon you get to work and hang out with one of the people you admired when you were growing up. I was lucky enough to say Gordon was my friend and I’m gutted to know he’s gone.”
“The world is a lesser place without him,” he continued. “I know I speak for all Canadians when I say: thank you for the songs Gordon Lightfoot. Bless your sweet songwriting heart, RIP dear friend.”
Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.