Sunday, March 11, 2018
Not So Easy to Read
Song 398: I wonder if anyone could have predicted that this week’s playlist track would be If You Could Read My Mind by Gordon Lightfoot, who also wrote the song. You can find a YouTube video of it by clicking on the title. Around the time this 45 topped the charts 47 years ago, when I headed over to the record store, I could only afford one LP/week, so I asked the clerk if he would recommend Lightfoot's Sit Down Young Stranger or Arlo's Washington County, and when he chose the former, I followed his advice. From the first spin on the turntable it felt like the right choice, and over the next few months, I added a few additional GL albums to my stash, soaking up a lot of his vision, and in the process, teaching myself a bunch of his tunes. That stretch also coincided with a romantic roller-coaster up and down that led to a whole pile of my own songs, including Elder Street's Stormy Winds and At the Crossroads. I recently did lyric videos for both of them, and you can catch those depictions by clicking on the titles. I would credit Bob Dylan and James Taylor as the primary influences on Stormy Winds, but when I wrote At the Crossroads I felt myself channeling Lightfoot, along with the Rolling Stones, and Read My Mind was the Gordon cut on the top of the stack. Interestingly enough, that summer, I met a songwriter in Atlanta who claimed that Lightfoot had stolen Read My Mind from him, and I thought it unlikely, but I won't claim to know for sure. Later, in 1985, my good friend Jeff Larson treated me (and himself) to a Lightfoot show at the Concord Pavilion on 9/12 as a birthday gift, and though from Gordon's sarcastic between-song banter, it seemed like he himself wasn't enjoying the event, Jeff and I had a pretty good time, and I still treasure the memory of that late summer afternoon.