Episode 31–The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

In November of 1975, an ore freighter broke apart and went down very suddenly in a storm on Lake Superior. Singer Gordon Lightfoot thought that the story wasn’t getting enough attention and gathered some news clippings together, then used that material to write a song about the event.

This is the original article from Newsweek’s November 24, 1975 article.

The song was recorded within just a few weeks of the tragedy, and was released the following summer. Just a few days after the first anniversary of the sinking, the song hit Number One on the Canadian charts, and peaked at #2 in the US. I have to admit, though, that when the song came out, 13-year-old me had no idea that it was about a recent event. I figured it was either fictional, or it had happened many years ago. Imagine my surprise!

One of the last dives. The bell has been replaced, and someone is in the pilot house, leaving a can of beer there.

Nowadays, the ship’s location is considered mostly off-limits to all recreational diving and most research dives or equipment, now. It’s also located in a spot in Lake Superior where the border between the United States and Canada has moved several times, now. Right now the ship is on the Canadian side.

What’s that, you say? Your podcatcher hasn’t picked up the show yet? Don’t worry, you can listen to or download it by clicking on the player below. In addition, I hear it’s now available on Google Play, so you can use that if you like. I’m still working on Spotify, but they’re taking their time about it.

EDITED TO ADD: Holy cow, I can’t believe I forgot to post the video of the ship’s launching. There’s no audio, more’s the pity. If you’ve never seen a sideways ship launch before, you’re in for a treat because it’s pretty cool in general. The action starts at about three minutes in.

See you next week!

Click here to become a Patron of the show. 


2 thoughts on “Episode 31–The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”

  1. I’m glad I finally found this episode of How Good It Is. Gordon Lightfoot’s “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” has been a long time favorite tune of mine. I even learned to play it on my guitar. The lyrics (28 lines, with only one that repeats) are a challenge to learn. I love the picture of the ship’s bell – I have a image that I shot at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum three years ago (https://bill.pixels.com/featured/edmund-fitzgerald-ships-bell-bill-swartwout-photography.html).

    Great job, Claude. I enjoyed reading your narrative and listening to the podcast.

    1. Thanks!

      This was a fascinating episode to research and write. It was one of those “the more you learn, the more there is to learn” projects. I wound up leaving a lot of stuff out, only because it didn’t relate directly to the song.

      Does it screw you up that Lightfoot has changed the lyrics a couple of times to reflect updated information? 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.