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 "Black Day in July" about the 1967 Detroit riot, brought him international recognition in the 1960s. He experienced chart success in Canada with his own recordings, beginning in 1962 with the No. 3 hit "(Remember 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) his first U.S. top 10 hit reaching #5. "Sundown" (1974) a #1 hit, "Carefree Highway" (1974) which followed reaching #10, "Rainy Day People (1975) at #25, and "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" (1976) (No. 2, Hot 100).
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, Jerry Lee Lewis, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, Barbra Streisand, Johnny Mathis, Herb Alpert, Harry Belafonte, Scott Walker, Sarah McLachlan, Eric Clapton, John Mellencamp, Jack Jones, Bobby Vee, Roger Whittaker, Peter, Paul and Mary, Glen Campbell, The Irish Rovers, Nico, Olivia Newton-John, Paul Weller, Nine Pound Hammer, and Ultra Naté.
Robbie Robertson of the Band described Lightfoot as "a national treasure". Bob Dylan, also a Lightfoot fan, called him one of his favorite songwriters and, in an often-quoted tribute, Dylan observed that when he heard a 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 honour—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 that 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.