Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald – Gordon Lightfoot

THIS DAY IN MUSIC………………………………………………on November 13th of 1976 Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” peaks at #2 on Billboard. Written by Lightfoot this is a factual retelling of a shipwreck on Lake Superior in November 1975 that claimed the lives of 29 crew members. Lightfoot wrote the lyrics after coming up with the melody and chords. He recalled: “When the story came on television, that the Edmund had foundered in Lake Superior three hours earlier, it was right on the CBC here in Canada, I came into the kitchen for a cup of coffee and saw the news and I said ‘That’s my story to go with the melody and the chords.’ “On November 10, 1975, the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald broke in half and sunk in Lake Superior. The storm she was caught in reported winds from 35 to 52 knots, and waves anywhere from 10 to 35 feet high. Lightfoot recalled the story of the song during a Reddit AMA: “The Edmund Fitzgerald really seemed to go unnoticed at that time, anything I’d seen in the newspapers or magazines were very short, brief articles, and I felt I would like to expand upon the story of the sinking of the ship itself,” he said. “And it was quite an undertaking to do that, I went and bought all of the old newspapers, got everything in chronological order, and went ahead and did it because I already had a melody in my mind and it was from an old Irish dirge that I heard when I was about three and a half years old.””I think it was one of the first pieces of music that registered to me as being a piece of music,” he continued. “That’s where the melody comes from, from an old Irish folk song.” In 1970, baseball commissioner Bud Selig’s co-founding partner in the Brewers was fellow Milwaukee businessman Edmund B. Fitzgerald, a patron of Milwaukee arts and civic projects, and the son of a family that owned Great Lakes shipyards. In 1958, the freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald was named for Edmund B.’s father. Fitzgerald later became a professor at Vanderbilt University.  The song about the Great Lakes maritime disaster was not a big hit in the UK where it peaked at #40. 

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