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acoustic guitar artists Arts & Entertainment music

The Story Behind The Song


I’m always interested in the story behind a good song. “Carefree Highway” is one of Gordon Lightfoot’s most popular offerings. He released it on his Warner Reprise 1974 album “Sundown.” It has a free and easy feel and I found it relatively easy to learn.

Carefree Highway is the actual name of a section of Arizona State Route 74 in Maricopa County connecting I-17 to Darlington Drive near the town of Carefree. The Highway rolls through desert mountains, Saguaro cacti, and the mesas of Tonto National Forest.

Driving from one southwestern concert to another, Lightfoot saw the name Carefree Highway on a sign and thought it would make a good song title. He wrote it down and quickly added the lyrics on some scraps of paper. The song then hibernated in a glove compartment for eight months. Lightfoot says in one of his interviews that he almost forgot about it. Fortunately, he rediscovered the lyrics and wrote the tune for the song. Once released, “Carefree Highway” reached the top of the charts in the US and Canada.

In the lyrics, Lightfoot reminisces about a brief love he had with a woman named Anne when he was twenty-two. He wonders if Anne ever thinks of him as often as he thinks of her. In his song, “For Lovin’ Me,” released in1967, Lightfoot sings about all of the hearts he’s broken as a wandering lover who can’t be tied down. In “Carefree Highway,” the tables are turned. Anne quickly dumps Gordon. (Can you hear the cheering women in the background?) As a sidenote, Lightfoot no longer sings “For Lovin’ Me” since it is now politically incorrect.

Here’s my cover of “Carefree Highway.”

Categories
acoustic guitar Arts & Entertainment folk music music

If You Could Read My Mind


I’m watching an interesting film titled “If You Could Read My Mind.” The Canadian documentary is about the life and career of Gordon Lightfoot.

Lightfoot arrived in downtown Toronto as a young man after growing up in Oridella, a small rural Canadian town. Since there were no clubs to play in at the time, Gordon landed a job in a bank to earn a living. Lightfoot was about to earn a promotion when he told his manager that he had decided to leave the bank to accept a role as an extra on a square dancing Canadian TV show. Lightfoot’s manager found it hard to believe that the young man was leaving a good job with a future to go square dancing.

As folk music became commercially viable in the late sixties, clubs began to spring up featuring promising musicians. Gordon landed a spot in one of them. He stood apart from the crowd because he performed many of his own songs in a characteristically pure voice. After he developed a following, a club owner invited Lightfoot to perform at his club across the street at twice the salary. Lightfoot gratefully accepted the invitation to perform at the Riverboat, Toronto’s premier folk music club.

With his beautiful voice and prolific outpouring of quality music, it was only a matter of time before Warner/Reprise records rewarded Lightfoot with a one million dollar recording contract, an unheard-of number for a Canadian singer. His first album with the new label was released in 1970 when Gordon was forty-two. Lightfoot had left United Artists after five albums because he felt they did not represent him adequately. “Sit Down Young Stranger” shipped 80,000 copies before sales stopped dead. The album “had no legs” in the industry’s parlance. Warner changed the name of the album and picked a new single to lead it off. “If You Could Read My Mind” became a runaway hit when an announcer on an important local radio station kept playing it. Sales of the album ballooned to 650,000 copies. The rest is history.

Here’s my cover of the song.

Gordon Lightfoot is not a “legend in his own mind” as Dirty Harry said about the perp he was about to blow away. Lightfoot is a genuine “legend in his own time.” He has been performing live well into his seventies and beyond. It is said that time waits for no man. Time may have made an exception in Mr. Lighfoot’s case.

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current events Essays inspiration issues memories profiles

Wasn’t That a Time?


Wasn’t that a time?  Wasn’t that a time to try the souls of men?  Wasn’t that a terrible time?”

The lyrics from a sixties folk song made popular by Peter Paul and Mary reverberate through the decades and remain relevant today.

Unfortunately.

The lyrics to the folk song hearken back to the war for American independence and major conflagrations waged since including World Wars I and II.

I recently bought an album by Tom Paxton.  Listening to his music on YouTube brought me back to the turbulent sixties and my love for the folk artists who became popular then.  Listening to these songs of social conscience and satire, love ballads, Children’s songs and others that reflect beautifully, poignantly and heart fully on our human experience, I am struck by the purity of this music.  It moves me deeply.  It penetrates my soul.  It inspires me to pick up my guitar and sing.

Looking back, I realize that these artists, these wandering troubadours, were great men and women.  Some of them are still alive and singing.  What a time the sixties were.  What noble visions for a better world, given voice by these passionate musicians, arose from the struggle.

Some of these visions have been realized.  We live in a better world today in some respects.  Yet we haven’t yet learned our lessons.  We live in a world where human beings still murder other human beings in the name of God.  We live in a world where a Russian President is intent upon restoring Russia to its Cold War boundaries by invading autonomous neighbor states.  We live in a world where hatred and intolerance still threaten our very existence.

When will they ever learn,” Mary Travers sings plaintively.  When, indeed, will we ever learn?

David Gittlin has written three feature length screenplays, produced two short films, and published three novels. Before quitting his day job, he spent more than thirty years as a marketing director building expertise in advertising, copy writing, corporate communications, collateral sales materials, website content/design and online marketing.