From the archives of the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library:
Gordon Lightfoot On Dec. 3, 1972, the Cambrian College Student Union, now known as Sault College, brought in singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot for a performance.
This was not the first time Lightfoot had visited the Sault. He had previously visited three other times, including running a guitar workshop with the Algoma Folk Festival in 1964, which was attended by only 20 people.
Since then, however, his popularity had skyrocketed. Lightfoot had just released his albums Don Quixote and Old Dan’s Records earlier that year, and newspapers were abuzz with speculation as to what songs he would choose to sing.
Columnists hoped for favourites like, If You Could Read My Mind; Sit Down, Young Stranger; Cotton Jenny; Don Quixote; Alberta Bound; Ode to Big Blue; and The Patriot’s Dream.
But, as one writer noted, “it doesn’t really matter what the program is. If it’s Lightfoot, it will be marvellous.”
Approximately 3,400 people attended the concert.
Lightfoot was worried about how it would go – concerned that there would be feedback and, more pressingly, afraid that he would lose a nail after injuring a finger a few weeks before.
One Star reporter noted that “he’s a strange man, different from what one would expect. He gives the impression of being an introvert that only years of acceptance have given him confidence to perform in public.”
The writer also noted that he was “smaller, shorter and more slight than… expected.”
The writer also noted one instance during the night where Lightfoot burped into his microphone as a sort of “defence mechanism for self-protection.”
Despite his popularity, there were no souvenir programs or other pieces of merchandise for sale. And there were also no autograph signings that took place, despite approximately 50 hopefuls who lined up.
“It just seemed that it was one more business proposition to him,” noted one of the promoters.
However, fans were less critical.
As one concertgoer said, “Well what the heck do they want. At least he came here. To me, that was enough.”
The concert earned Lightfoot $7,500 in total; the Cambrian College Student Union, after expenses, made approximately $3,000 that would go towards more events.
Gordon Lightfoot’s success, of course, would continue, and his acclaim in Canada and internationally would only grow. One of his most famous songs with a local connection is The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald which came out in 1976, one year after the sinking of the freighter, the SS Edmund Fitzgerald!
Each week, the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library and its Archives provides SooToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past.