Listen/Download – Gordon Lightfoot – For Lovin’ Me
Welcome to another week here at the ole leg of iron.
The tune I bring you this fine day is one that I first heard not in its original version, but in a cover by one of the most successful commercial folk acts of the 1960s.
Peter, Paul and Mary were hugely successful in their day, and unlike so many of their contemporaries managed to be so without sacrificing all of their folk movement cred.
Some of this was the result of their activist bent, and some due to the fact that they managed to maintain a level of musical and artistic quality, rarely pandering to the middle of the road. I know some people would disagree, but I won’t hold PPM’s efforts to be entertaining against them.
They are often remembered today as representative of “commercialized” folk music, but this is usually by people that forget groups like the Kingston Trio.
Their LP ‘A Song Will Rise’ was a cornerstone of my father’s record collection (the small, non-jazz contemporary wing thereof) and as a result a major formative touchstone for yours truly.
The album featured some cool originals but also some exceptional cover material, such as the Weavers stirring ‘Wasn’t That a Time’ and the song I bring you today.
Naturally, when I was a tot I had yet to discover the value of reading record labels, so I was unaware that ‘For Lovin’ Me’ had been written by Gordon Lightfoot.
Oddly enough, I know who Lightfoot was, but only because by that time he had already entered the pop charts a number of times with songs like ‘If You Could Read My Mind’ (1971).
It wasn’t until decades later, when I picked up Lightfoot’s 1965 debut that I realized that the song I loved so much as a kid was a cover.
Of course by that time, I’d read and listened to enough that I was familiar with his early work as a songwriter, with material being recorded by artists like Nico (‘I’m Not Sayin’), Judy Collins (Early Mornin’ Rain) and Marty Robbins (Ribbon Of Darkness).
Much like his countrywoman Joni Mitchell, many of his most famous songs were recorded (or were popularized) by others first.
Lightfoot got his start as a folksinger/songwriter in his native Canada having chart success in his native country and doing TV work in the UK before being signed by none other than Albert Grossman in 1965 and recording his debut album for United Artists the following year.
Though the record was acoustic, in the folky tradition, the songs and performances had the sound not of a coffeehouse troubadour but rather an early iteration of the singer/songwriter vibe that would become huge over the next five years (much like Tom Rush during the same period).
‘For Lovin’ Me’ is a great, slightly dark feel to it with some haunting chord changes. Though I’ll always love the harmonies in the PPM version it’s also cool to hear the song delivered in Lightfoot’s rich baritone.
The ‘Lightfoot’ album has been reissued, but oddly enough original copies tend to turn up fairly frequently. You not only get to hear Lightfoot’s versions of his own songs but covers of tunes by Phil Ochs (Changes), Ewan McColl (The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face) and a cool take on Hamilton Camp’s ‘Pride of Man’ which would later be covered by Quicksilver Messenger Service.
I hope you dig the tune and I’ll see you all next week.