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Song of the Moment: The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald

A storm stronger than the one that sank the freighter Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975 is expected to slash across the Midwest tomorrow, snarling Chicago travel and whipping waves as high as 30 feet across Lake Michigan. - Bloomberg

This year, the gales of November have come calling a week early. Rumors are flying that the storm we have right now rivals the region's most famous storms of old. "The rumors are not rumors because they're true," said Dan Miller with the National Weather Service. "This storm is actually probably a little stronger than the Edmund Fitzgerald storm." - Northland News Center

[T]he storm's pressure was worse than that produced the Blizzard of 1978, the March 1993 "Storm of the Century" or the November 1975 storm that sank the Edmund Fitzgerald freighter, memorialized in a song by Gordon Lightfoot. - AP

Recorded: December 1975

Artist: Gordon Lightfoot

Released: August 1976

Produced By: Lenny Waronker and Gordon Lightfoot

Label: Reprise

Length: 6:32 album, 5:57 radio edit

B-Side: "The House You Live In"

Charts: No. 1 in Canada on the Top Singles, Adult Contemporary, and Country charts; No. 2 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Covered By: Brainclaw, Laura Cantrell, Jag Panzer, The Dandy Warhols, Rheostatics

Wikipedia: It was inspired by the Newsweek article on the event, "The Cruelest Month," which appeared in the issue of November 24, 1975.

One unusual aspect of the song is that it is written in Dorian mode.

Capt. Ernest McSorley stated over the radio, until the boat sank, that they were "holding our own." What the cook or any other crew member did or did not say will never be known; however, it is customary for folk music to include artistic renderings of a crew's final moments or speech, especially if unknown.

Songfacts: In the U.S., this was held out of the #1 spot by Rod Stewart's "Tonight's The Night."

This was nominated for the Song Of The Year Grammy, but it was beaten by Barry Manilow's "I Write The Songs." [Editor's Note: Written by Bruce Johnston, who received the award.]

Ohio-based Great Lakes Brewery produces a beer called Edmund Fitzgerald Porter.

Lyrics:

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy.

With a load of iron ore - 26,000 tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty
That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
When the gales of November came early

The ship was the pride of the American side
Coming back from some mill in Wisconsin
As the big freighters go it was bigger than most
With a crew and the captain well seasoned.

Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
When they left fully loaded for Cleveland
And later that night when the ships bell rang
Could it be the North Wind they'd been feeling?

The wind in the wires made a tattletale sound
And a wave broke over the railing
And every man knew, as the captain did, too,
Twas the witch of November come stealing.

The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
When the gales of November came slashing
When afternoon came it was freezing rain
In the face of a hurricane west wind

When supper time came the old cook came on deck
Saying fellows it's too rough to feed ya
At 7 p.m. a main hatchway caved in
He said fellas it's been good to know ya.

The captain wired in he had water coming in
And the good ship and crew was in peril
And later that night when his lights went out of sight
Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Does anyone know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours
The searchers all say they'd have made Whitefish Bay
If they'd put fifteen more miles behind her.

They might have split up or they might have capsized
They may have broke deep and took water
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters.

Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
In the ruins of her ice water mansion
Old Michigan steams like a young man's dreams,
The islands and bays are for sportsmen.

And farther below Lake Ontario
Takes in what Lake Erie can send her
And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
With the gales of November remembered.

In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed
In the Maritime Sailors' Cathedral
The church bell chimed, 'til it rang 29 times
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
Superior, they say, never gives up her dead
When the gales of November come early.

YouTube:

1. Gordon Lightfoot on Soundstage, 1979.

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2. An even longer version by the Rheostatics.

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3. Jag Panzer rocks it.

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Comments welcome.

*

Previously in Song of the Moment:
* Iron Man
* The Story of Bo Diddley
* Teach Your Children
* Dream Vacation
* When The Levee Breaks
* I Kissed A Girl
* Theme From Shaft
* Rocky Mountain High
* North to Alaska
* Barracuda
* Rainy Days and Mondays
* Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?
* Baby, It's Cold Outside
* Man in the Mirror
* Birthday Sex
* Rio
* My Sharona
* Alex Chilton
* Surfin' Bird
* By The Time I Get To Arizona
* Heaven and Hell
* Sunday Bloody Sunday
* Lawless One
* Tell It Like It Is



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Posted on October 27, 2010


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