The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

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A tribute to the 29 men who died November 10, 1975, aboard the Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior.

----
Announcer (0:04): An air and sea search is continuing for possible survivors of the Edmund Fitzgerald, a 729 foot ore carrier, which apparently broke apart and sunk last night on Lake Superior. The ship and its 29-man crew vanished in a storm with 80 mile-an-hour winds and wave heights up to 25 feet. All that has been found is an oil slick and some debris.
--
song begins at 0:17
--
Radio Transmission (3:11): "We last had contact with 'em, the mate had talked to him ... at about 10 minutes after 7, 19:10, and he said he was going along fine and no problem."
--
Radio Transmission (3:21): "But it looks from the information that we have that it's, uh, fairly certain that the, uh, Fitzgerald went down."
--
Radio Transmission (4:04): "Uh, no, I didn't have him, uh, visually, I had him on radar; he was, uh, exactly 10 miles ahead of us. I asked him how he was making out with his problems and he said he was holding his own, but I, uh, lost contact after that."

----

Lyrics:

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
of the big lake they called "Gitche Gumee"
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
when the skies of November turn gloomy
With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more
than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty,
that big ship and true was a bone to be chewed
when the Gales of November came early

The ship was the pride of the American side
coming back from some mill in Wisconsin
As the big freighters go, it was bigger than most
with a crew and good captain well seasoned,
concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
when they left fully loaded for Cleveland
And later that night when the ship's bell rang,
could it be the north wind they'd been feelin'?

The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound
and a wave broke over the railing
And ev'ry man knew, as the captain did too
'twas the witch of November come stealin'
The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
when the Gales of November came slashin'
When afternoon came it was freezin' rain
in the face of a hurricane west wind

When suppertime came the old cook came on deck sayin'
"Fellas, it's too rough t'feed ya"
At seven P.M. a main hatchway caved in; he said,
"Fellas, it's bin good t'know ya!"
The captain wired in he had water comin' in
and the good ship and crew was in peril
And later that night when 'is lights went outta sight
came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Does any one know where the love of God goes
when the waves turn the minutes to hours?
The searchers all say they'd have made Whitefish Bay
if they'd put fifteen more miles behind 'er
They might have split up or they might have capsized;
they may have broke deep and took water
And all that remains is the faces and the names
of the wives and the sons and the daughters

Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
in the rooms of her ice-water mansion
Old Michigan steams like a young man's dreams;
the islands and bays are for sportsmen
And farther below Lake Ontario
takes in what Lake Erie can send her,
And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
with the Gales of November remembered

In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed,
in the Maritime Sailors' Cathedral
The church bell chimed 'til it rang twenty-nine times
for each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald
The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
of the big lake they call "Gitche Gumee"
"Superior," they said, "never gives up her dead
when the gales of November come early"

Retrieved from Wikipedia:
The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald on Wikipedia
"The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald"
WreckEdmundFitzgerald.jpg
Single by Gordon Lightfoot
from the album Summertime Dream
B-side"The House You Live In"
ReleasedAugust 1976
Format7" 45
RecordedDecember 1975
Eastern Sound Studios, Toronto
GenreFolk rock,Soft Rock
Length6:32
5:57
LabelReprise
Writer(s)Gordon Lightfoot
Producer(s)Lenny Waronker
Gordon Lightfoot
Gordon Lightfoot singles chronology

"The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" is a song written, composed, and performed by Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot to commemorate the sinking of the bulk carrier SS Edmund Fitzgerald on Lake Superior on November 10, 1975. Lightfoot drew his inspiration from Newsweek's article on the event, "The Cruelest Month", which it published in its November 24, 1975, issue.[1] Lightfoot considers this song to be his finest work.[2]

Appearing originally on Lightfoot's 1976 album Summertime Dream, the single version hit number 1 in his native Canada (in the RPM national singles survey) on November 20, 1976, barely a year after the disaster.[3] In the United States, it reached number 1 in Cashbox and number 2 for two weeks in the Billboard Hot 100 (behind Rod Stewart's "Tonight's The Night"), making it Lightfoot's second-most-successful single behind "Sundown". Overseas it was at best a minor hit, peaking at number 40 in the UK Singles Chart.[4]

The song is written in Mixolydian mode.[5]

Contents

  • 1 Artistic license
  • 2 Chart performance
    • 2.1 Weekly charts
    • 2.2 Year-end charts
  • 3 Production
  • 4 Derivative works
  • 5 See also
  • 6 References
  • 7 External links

Artistic license

The song contains a few artistic omissions and paraphrases. In a later interview aired on Canadian commercial radio, Lightfoot recounted how he had agonised while trying to pen the lyrics over possible inaccuracies until Lenny Waronker, his long-time producer and friend, finally removed his writer's block simply by advising him to play to his artistic strengths and "just tell a story". On the other hand, Lightfoot's personal passion for recreational sailing on the Great Lakes[6] informs his ballad's verses throughout.

  • According to the song, Edmund Fitzgerald was bound "fully loaded for Cleveland". In fact, she was heading for Detroit, there to discharge her cargo of taconite iron ore pellets before docking in Cleveland for the winter.[7]
  • Capt. Ernest McSorley had stated in his last radio transmission before the boat sank that they were "holding our own." What the cook or any other crew member did or did not say will never be known.
  • The "old cook" in the song was actually a replacement for this particular voyage, as the normal cook was too ill to make this trip.
  • Lightfoot refers to Mariners' Church of Detroit as "The Maritime Sailors' Cathedral" in the lyrics.
  • Lightfoot says that the bell was rung 29 times, once for each crew member aboard the ship. Internet sources often incorrectly claim that the bell was also rung once more in honour of all people who had lost their lives at sea, for a total of 30 times. Reverend Richard W. Ingalls, Sr., rector of Mariners' Church, tolled the bell 29 times, not 30.[8][9] The practice of tolling a bell an additional time for all lives lost at sea began in November 10 memorial services following 1975.
  • In a later live recording, Lightfoot recounts that a parishioner of the church informed him that the church is not "musty." From that time, instead of singing "In a musty old hall...", he now sings "In a rustic old hall..."[10]
  • In March 2010, Lightfoot changed a line during live performances to reflect new findings that there was no crew error involved in the sinking. The line originally read, "At 7 p.m. a main hatchway caved in; he said..."; it is now sung as "At 7 p.m. it grew dark, it was then he said...". Lightfoot learned of the new research when contacted for permission to use his song for a History Channel documentary that aired on March 31, 2010. Lightfoot has stated that he has no intention of changing the copyrighted lyrics; he will instead, from now on, simply sing the new ones in live performances.[11]

Production

The song was recorded in December 1975 at Eastern Sound,[18] a recording studio made out of two Victorian houses at 48 Yorkville Avenue in a beatnik district of downtown Toronto, Canada. The famous studio, which also recorded Cat Stevens, Bruce Springsteen and Jimi Hendrix, was later torn down and replaced by a parking lot.[19]

The song was the first commercial early digital multi-track recording tracked on the prototype 3M 32-track digital recorder, a novel technology for the time.

Pee Wee Charles and Terry Clements came up with "the haunting guitar and steel riffs" on a "second take" during the evening session.[20]

"Lightfoot cleared the studio and killed all the lights save the one illuminating his parchment of scribbled words" when recording his vocal part.[21]

Derivative works

The Canadian art-rock group The Rheostatics recorded a version of the song for their 1991 album Melville.[22]

In 1995, two decades after Lightfoot's original song was written, singer-songwriter Camille West recorded a parody song with a similar rhythm titled "The Nervous Wreck of Edna Fitzgerald," about a well-to-do family's disastrous day at sea. She recorded and released it on her album Mother Tongue (subtitled "Maternal Madness, Month by Month") that year.[23] Ten years later, after she had joined the band Four Bitchin' Babes, she and the band performed the song live, prefacing it with the comment, "With apologies to Gordon Lightfoot." It was included on their album of that year, Gabby Road.[24]

Executive producer Paul Gross wanted to use the song for the Due South episode "Mountie on the Bounty." Lightfoot agreed, but only if Gross gained approval from the families of all the men who lost their lives in the wreck. Gross and Jay Semko instead created a song about a fictional shipwreck on the Great Lakes - "32 Down on the Robert McKenzie" [25]

NRBQ frequently performed "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" live, though in a less than serious manner. Video shows vocalist Terry Adams, reading from a lyrics sheet, chuckling as his voice cracks, while audience members throw debris at the stage.[26] They did this to mock the song, not as a serious cover version.[27]

Portland based music group The Dandy Warhols performed a cover of the song in 2009.[28]

See also

  • iconMusic of Canada portal
  • icon1970s portal
  • Canadian rock
  • Music of Canada

References

  1. ^ "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald: Song Lyrics". Gordon Lightfoot. 
  2. ^ DeYoung, Bill (March 2, 2010). "If You Could Read His Mind: A Conversation with Folk Music Legend Gordon Lightfoot". Connect Savannah. 
  3. ^ "Item Display. RPM". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved August 18, 2010. 
  4. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 50: 23 January 1977 - 29 January 1977". Official Charts Company. Retrieved November 26, 2016. 
  5. ^ Whitesell, Lloyd (2008). The Music of Joni Mitchell. Oxford University Press. p. 119. ISBN 0199719098. 
  6. ^ "Excerpt from Yachting magazine, 1979, 'This Goose is Golden'". 
  7. ^ Wert, Ray (November 10, 2011). "Remembering the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, 36 Years Later". Jalopnik. 
  8. ^ McInnis, Joseph (1998). Fitzgerald's Storm: The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald". Thunder Bay Press. p. 62. ISBN 1-882376-53-6. 
  9. ^ Schumacher, Michael (2005). Mighty Fitz. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 94. ISBN 1-58234-647-X. 
  10. ^ Balunda, George (November 2010). "Mariners' Church of Detroit". Hour Detroit. Retrieved December 10, 2011. 
  11. ^ Stevenson, Jane (March 26, 2010). "Lightfoot Changes 'Edmund Fitzgerald' Lyric". Toronto Sun. 
  12. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. 
  13. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  14. ^ "Cash Box Top Singles - 1976". Tropicalglen.com. 1963-12-20. Retrieved 2017-02-23. 
  15. ^ "Top Singles – Volume 26, No. 14 & 15, January 08 1977". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved June 13, 2016. 
  16. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1999). Pop Annual. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. ISBN 0-89820-142-X. 
  17. ^ http://50.6.195.142/archives/70s_files/1976YESP.html
  18. ^ "Album Recording Notes". Lighfoot!. October 23, 2016. 
  19. ^ "Recording Studios used in Toronto: Eastern Sound". Bruce Cockburn + Toronto - A Historical Tour. October 23, 2016. 
  20. ^ Charles, Peewee (October 23, 2016). "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald....37 years ago today!!". The Steel Guitar Forum. 
  21. ^ Treece, Tom (October 23, 2016). "Me and 'The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald'". But What Do I Know? Vol.1 Page 403. 
  22. ^ "Rheostatics". thecanadianencyclopedia.ca. Retrieved November 10, 2015. 
  23. ^ "Mother Tongue (Maternal Madness Month By Month)". Amazon.com. Retrieved October 26, 2014. 
  24. ^ "Gabby Road". Amazon.com. Retrieved October 26, 2014. 
  25. ^ Pressland, Angela. "Paul's Music". PaulGross.org. Retrieved 13 June 2016. 
  26. ^ "NRBQ - Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald". Retrieved 17 December 2016. 
  27. ^ "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald". cbslocal.com. Retrieved September 9, 2016. 
  28. ^ "The Dandy Warhols - The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald". YouTube. 2009-06-30. Retrieved 2017-02-23. 

External links

  • Lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics
   

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