#71: “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”: Gordon Lightfoot: 1976
I have been waiting for November to come so I could write about the 1976 song written and sung by Gordon Lightfoot, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald . The song tells the story of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, a bulk carrier trading iron ore across Lake Superior in the Great Lakes. On the afternoon of November 9th, 1975, a huge storm swept up with winds over 75mph and waves to 25 feet high. The blinding storm carried on into the night and the ship went down with its cargo and 29 souls on board; all were lost to the freezing water. Lightfoot wrote his song after reading an article about this tragedy titled, The Cruelest Month published in Newsweek on November 24, 1975
The ship was found a few days later at the bottom of Lake Superior; it had split into two pieces, only 17 miles from safe harbour at Whitefish Bay. Lightfoot is an excellent story teller and the sombre emotion of this tragedy is delivered in eerie tones with a dirge like funeral beat. This great tragedy is remembered each year at the Mariner’s Church in Detroit, Michigan on November 10th. On this day the bell tolls 29 times in memory of the each of the sailors lost. Below is an image of last years’ service and a link to an article about the service. It is a very interesting read.
Much has been written; it is clearly not something to be easily forgotten, especially in the communities of that area but I encourage you to listen carefully, and more than once, to Lightfoot’s song. It is very deep (pardon the pun) and profound AND a reminder of just how fragile we humans are when pitted against the forces of nature. I understand all royalties from this song go to the widows and families of the lost seamen.
Unfortunately you will have to open the link above to access the song but I can assure you, it is well and truly worth it.