Years ago, (another time, another galaxy), I played the drums in a band called “Whiteroom”.  We practiced in Tim’s basement.  Tim, as well as myself and my other bandmates, were students at Carleton University in Ottawa.  In other words, music wasn’t our full time gig it was our distraction from essays, lectures and exams.  We knew we weren’t the next Rolling Stones, but that didn’t stop us from belting out their hits, as well other classic rock standards from the Who, Def Leppard and AC/DC.  When I started with the band, Tim told me that the drum set I was playing on had belonged to Gordon Lightfoot’s son. Sadly, that meant little to me at the time. I had heard of Gordon Lightfoot but I couldn’t name a single song he had written.  Looking back, I wondered how he would have felt about some university kid hammering away to “You Shook Me All Night Long” on a set of drums that may have accompanied far more delicate tunes. 

The band is gone, the drum set is gone, and now Gordon Lightfoot himself is gone, passing away yesterday at the age of 84.He is being remembered as one of Canada’s most poetic singer/songwriters. He may not have been on my radar back in 1989, but Inow count myself among his fans, thanks to a random act of kindness just before Christmas 2022.   Let me explain….

This past Christmas was a difficult one for me.  Changes in my family situation meant that Christmas 2022 was going to be a different one and a difficult one.  I had always loved Christmas, but this year it felt intimidating.  Melancholy, may best have described my mood as December marched on.  And then one day in mid December, out of the blue, a friend of mine sent me a link to the song “Song For A Winter’s Night” by Gordon Lightfoot.  I listened to it. I listened to it again. I listened to it a third time.  I’m not sure if it was his soothing voice, or perhaps the gentle flow of the melody, or maybe it was distant jingling of bells behind the chorus that awakened in me some nostalgic memories, but the song nurtured me.  It was exactly what I needed, even though I didn’t know I needed it.  It seemed to wrap itself around me like a blanket, offering warmth and comfort.

“The fire is dying

Now my lamp is growing dim

The shades of night are lifting

The morning light steals across my window pane

Where the webs of snow are drifting.”

I credit that song with carrying me through the holidays. I must have listened to it 100 times, including on my drive from home to church to lead the Christmas Eve services.

The music of my youth lifted me up, and inspired me, and made me feel empowered. In many ways it still does.  But sometimes the gift of music is that it can speak to our pain. It can find its way into the shadows that fill us all, and whisper its gentle notes of grace.  My guess is that the music of Gordon Lightfoot did that for a lot of people.  It spoke to our pain, and it allowed us to drift through our memories, bringing to the surface treasured moments of love and contentment. Gordon Lightfoot was a musical genius who crafted poetry into song, and gently drew us deeper into ourselves.  I became a fan late in life, but I now count myself among those who have come to deeply appreciate the gift that he gave to us.  His music will live on, and it will keep speaking to the places within us all that crave beauty, healing and peace.