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.
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!
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.
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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!
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2 thoughts on “Episode 31–The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”
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.
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? 😉