Comment ‘The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald’ a défié la logique du Top 40


Gordon Lightfoot’s « The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald »: A Documentarian’s Song

Gordon Lightfoot, the Canadian folk singer, passed away on Monday at the age of 84. He was known for his hit song « The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, » which defied Top 40 logic. The song was about the sinking of a freighter with 29 crewmen aboard on Lake Superior in 1975. It was unusual because it was more than six minutes long, twice as long as most pop hits, and retold a real-life tragedy with meticulous attention to detail. Eric Greenberg, a longtime friend of the singer, called it « a documentarian’s song. »

The Edmund Fitzgerald was a 729-foot ore carrier and one of the largest freighters on the Great Lakes when it sank near the coasts of Ontario and Michigan. None of the 29 crew members survived. The morning after the Fitzgerald went down, the rector of Mariners’ Church of Detroit tolled its bell 29 times, once for each man lost. Mr. Lightfoot read the article and started singing a song about the wreck during a previously scheduled recording session. His band joined in, and the first version of the song that they recorded was later released.

The Enduring Legacy of « The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald »

« The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald » spent 21 weeks on the Billboard charts and peaked at No. 2, one notch behind Mr. Lightfoot’s only No. 1 hit, « Sundown. » It turned the tale of the sinking into a modern legend. Unlike songs that use a real-life story as the basis for embellishment, Mr. Lightfoot’s ballad hewed precisely to the real-life details. Decades later, Mr. Lightfoot changed the lyrics slightly after investigations into the accident revealed that waves, not crew error, had led to the shipwreck.

Mr. Lightfoot remained proud of the song for decades, and he kept newspaper clippings and items given to him by the crew members’ surviving families in his home. The song’s success had one downside: It turned the wreck into a trophy for divers, upsetting the lost sailors’ families. In 2006, the government of Ontario adopted a law protecting the site. « The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, » like its creator, endured as a Canadian classic long after slipping off the Top 40 charts.


Gordon Lightfoot, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, Canadian folk singer, Lake Superior, freighter, real-life tragedy, Eric Greenberg, Mariners’ Church of Detroit, Billboard charts, Sundown, shipwreck, waves, Ontario, trophy, divers, sailors’ families.

Donnez votre avis et abonnez-vous pour plus d’infos

Vidéo du jour: