Aired on Treasure Island Oldies – Jul 02, 2023
On May 1, 2023, we lost Canadian singer/songwriter and guitarist, Gordon Lightfoot. Credited with playing an integral role in defining the folk-pop genre of the 60s and 70s, he is considered by many as Canada’s greatest songwriter.
Lightfoot earned a special place in the hearts of not only his fans but of renowned musical artists from around the world, many of whom recorded his songs.
But sometimes, even the most revered artists find themselves embroiled in controversy, as Lightfoot would discover with the release of a haunting ballad in January 1968 …
To say the 60s were turbulent would be an understatement. After President John F. Kennedy’s assassination things seem to escalate with the ramping up of the Viet Nam war and increasing social unrest and racial tension.
In this charged atmosphere, Lightfoot felt compelled to address the troubling issue of racial discrimination in America. Inspired by a tragic event that transpired south of the border in the summer of 1967, he penned a powerful song.
When the song hit the airwaves, it struck a chord with listeners. However, not everyone embraced his artistic expression. What resulted was an unexpected backlash, with some accusing Lightfoot of stirring up controversy and politicizing his music.
Upon the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968, radio stations in 30 US states pulled the song for “fanning the flames,” even though the song was a plea for racial harmony. Lightfoot argued at the time that radio station owners cared more about playing songs “that make people happy” and not those “that make people think.”
Despite charting in the Top Ten in many cities across Canada, the record failed to make it onto the Billboard Hot 100.
Over the years, his sincerity to shed light on important social matters through song has sparked conversations and encouraged listeners to confront the uncomfortable truths of their time.
That tragic event that Lightfoot wrote about was the Detroit race riot in the summer of 1967, a time best described as a “Black Day In July,” and it’s this week’s Tom Locke moment in time.
YouTube video of this song:
This “Moments In Time” story is yet another example of a “golden oldie” or forgotten favorite that earned its place in the evolution of Rock & Roll.