Gordon Meredith Lightfoot, Jr. (born November 17, 1938) is a Canadian singer-songwriter who achieved international success in folk, folk-rock, and country music, and has been credited for helping define the folk-pop sound of the 1960s and 1970s. He has been referred to as Canada's greatest songwriter and internationally as a folk-rock legend.
Lightfoot's songs, including "For Lovin' Me", "Early Morning Rain", "Steel Rail Blues", "Ribbon of Darkness"--a number one hit on the U.S. country chart with Marty Robbins's cover in 1965-- and the 1967 Detroit riot-generated "Black Day in July" brought him international recognition in the 1960s. He experienced chart success in Canada with his own recordings, beginning in 1962 with the #3 hit Me) I'm the One". Lightfoot's recordings then made an impact on the international music charts as well in the 1970s, with songs such as "If You Could Read My Mind" (1970) (#5 on the US chart), "Sundown" (1974), "Carefree Highway" (1974), "Rainy Day People" (1975), all reaching #1, and "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" (1976) (#2).
Some of Lightfoot's albums have achieved gold and multi-platinum status internationally. His songs have been recorded by some of the world's most renowned recording artists, including Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams Jr., The Kingston Trio, Marty Robbins, George Hamilton IV, Jerry Lee Lewis, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, Barbra Streisand, Johnny Mathis, Eddie Albert, Herb Alpert, Viola Wills, Richie Havens, The Replacements, Harry Belafonte, Tony Rice, Sandy Denny (with Fotheringay), The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, Scott Walker, Sarah McLachlan, Eric Clapton, Jim Croce, John Mellencamp, Jack Jones, Bobby Vee, Blue Rodeo, The Tragically Hip, Roger Whittaker, Toby Keith, Peter, Paul and Mary, Glen Campbell, Anne Murray, Waylon Jennings, The Irish Rovers, Nico, Olivia Newton-John and Paul Weller.
Robbie Robertson of The Band declared that Lightfoot was one of his "favourite Canadian songwriters and is absolutely a national treasure." Bob Dylan, also a Lightfoot fan, called him one of his favourite songwriters, and in an often-quoted tribute, Dylan observed that when he heard a Gordon Lightfoot song he wished "it would last forever." Lightfoot was a featured musical performer at the opening ceremonies of the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary, Alberta. He received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree (arts) in 1979 and the Companion of the Order of Canada--Canada's highest civilian honor--in 2003. In November 1997, Lightfoot was awarded the Governor General's Performing Arts Award, Canada's highest honour in the performing arts. On February 6, 2012, Lightfoot was presented with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal by the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. In June of that same year he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. On June 6, 2015, Lightfoot received an honorary doctorate of music in his hometown of Orillia from Lakehead University.