Song of the Day, January 12: Early Morning Rain by Gordon Lightfoot

gordon-lightfoot-early-morning-rain-1971Today’s song is an early success by a master singer-songwriter. Gordon Lightfoot wrote Early Morning Rain in 1964 as his career was just beginning, inspired by watching a friend fly away. The lyrics are deeply evocative, conjuring up the cold, grey morning flawlessly. Lightfoot connects the airfield and plane to the longstanding folk-blues tradition of riding the rails, emphasizing the down-and-out situation of the narrator. It’s a smart conceit that ties together a magnificent musical package. With a simple, compelling tune, the singer weaves a compact story with great emotional resonance.

This old airport’s got me down – it’s no earthly good to me
‘Cause I’m stuck here on the ground as cold and drunk as I can be
You can’t jump a jet plane like you can a freight train
So, I’d best be on my way in the early morning rain

Working primarily as a writer at that point, Lightfoot had his breakthrough with this song. Ian and Sylvia recorded it in 1965, as did the Grateful Dead and Peter, Paul and Mary — who had a minor chart hit with it. Lightfoot himself included it on his 1966 debut. Since then, a vast array of talents have interpreted the song including Judy Collins, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Jerry Reed, Neil Young, and Paul Weller. Lightfoot himself re-recorded it for his 1975 greatest hits package, Gord’s Gold.

Nothing beats the original, however. Enjoy this brilliant folk-pop gem today.

BONUS: Nearly 50 years after Lightfoot wrote the song, another Canadian folk-pop master recorded the best cover version of the song. Stephen Fearing’s deep, emotive voice is a perfect vehicle for the mournful lyrics, and he used the song as a perfect coda to his 2013 album Between Hurricanes.

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About Robert Hulshof-Schmidt
Freelance writer, researcher, online comic vendor, and project manager. Fan of a wide range of music -- especially folk and 80s pop -- vintage comics, British TV, and LGBT fiction.

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