GORDON LIGHTFOOT: Extended Interview

What was the inspiration for “Early Morning Rain?”

It sort of took me back to Westlake. I got homesick out there a few times, and I remember I was going out to the airport, and it was a rainy day, and there was a place you could watch the approach of the airplanes. They were actually coming in where I was standing, and I could see them leaving on the other runway right over on the other side…

What was the inspiration for “Early Morning Rain?”

It sort of took me back to Westlake. I got homesick out there a few times, and I remember I was going out to the airport, and it was a rainy day, and there was a place you could watch the approach of the airplanes. They were actually coming in where I was standing, and I could see them leaving on the other runway right over on the other side. And I was inspired right there with that imagery of an airplane climbing off into overcast, and then I recreated that around 1964, about five years later. So that was an image that stayed there for five years, and all of a sudden it emerged in one afternoon when I was babysitting my five-month-old first child. And I said, “I’ll put him over here in his crib, and I’ll write myself a tune.” I have done that a few times (laughs). And that’s what came out, and I said, “That’s fine, and I’ll send that off to the guys in New York and see what they say.” And they called me right back and said, “Geez, Gordon. This one is great! It’s a lot better than the other 19 you sent us three months ago, because none of them were any good.” I was starting to catch on. That was right around the time I started listening to Bob Dylan, and I started getting a more direct approach, getting away from the love songs and getting a little more down to earth. Or up in the sky, whichever.

So just a few years after that “Sundown” became your biggest hit.

Yeah, that was just a couple of years after that. We had a couple of albums in between – great sales, more covers. “Sundown” went up to #1 in Cashbox,#2 in Billboard, and #2 in Record World. I just remember once that we knocked Paul McCartney out of first place with “Sundown.” He had No. 1 with Wings, and we pushed them back to No. 2. That’s as close as I got to catching up to those guys, because they were always there, and you always had to compete against them. I tell you, it could be discouraging. You could work and work and work and have an album come out, and all of sudden there was a big Beatle album booming up to the top of the charts. The record company at one point tried to time my stuff, trying to schedule it so it would come out when it would have more of a chance. They tried to do that with my last seriously good album [East of Midnight] in 1986, and you’ll never guess who bumped us out of first place in the “Record of the Week” – the Monkees.