Often overlooked, possibly because he didn’t die, Gordon Lightfoot has enjoyed commercial success and critical success from his peers, but his status beyond his contemporaries seems less certain. Despite his original and emotional voice, his obvious talent as a songwriter and prolific output he is rarely mentioned amongst the greats. Two other classics that he may be remembered for are If You Could Read My Mind 1970 and Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald 1976.
Bob Dylan recorded Early Morning Rain on his 1970 album Self Portrait, Elvis Presley released it twice, first on a covers album (Elvis Now 1972) and later on a live album (Elvis In Concert 1977). It was a small hit for Peter Paul and Mary in 1965 (No. 91 in the US), George Hamilton IV took it to No. 9 on the US Country chart in 1966 (Hamilton died last month). It even scraped into the UK Top 40 in the last spot, for Paul Weller in 2005.
It was also recorded 1n 1965 by fellow Canadian husband and wife duo Ian & Sylvia as well as Grateful Dead in the same year. Although he recorded the song in 1964 it didn’t appear by Lightfoot till he released his self titled solo album in 1966 and he rerecorded it for Gord’s Gold in 1975. Judy Collins, Chad & Jeremy, Jerry Reed and Jerry Lee Lewis have also recorded the song – Neil Young recorded it on his latest album, A Letter Home 2014. See which version does it for you.
Other versions include Stephen Fearing, Ruben Hein and Oliver who is better know for his sixties hit Good Morning Starshine from the musical Hair, a US No.3 in June 1969.
Grateful Dead’s version:
Chad and Jeremy’s version:
Jerry Reed’s version:
Dutch singer Ruben Hein’s version:
In this BBC video presented by the Rolf Harris we remember, Lightfoot performs the song with his 12 string acoustic, accompanied by Red Shea on guitar and Rick Haynes on bass. Red Shea died in 2014 just 2 weeks after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Although Shea left Lightfoot in 1975 he was often called upon to come and play on Lightfoot’s albums. Members of Lightfoot’s band have been loyal to him for 45 years.