I heard "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" on WFPK on November 10, 2015, started listening a little more intently because I'd forgotten how electric the guitars were and how those 70s bass drums come pounding in a few verses in. For many musicians I know, that song has become a bit of a joke (I think the song is a complete masterpiece, beautiful haunting and perfect example of a good ballad) -- not the lyrics and melody, but the idea that it goes on and on for almost seven minutes without any chorus. It's jokingly been used as a way to get people to leave a club at 2a (click here to see NRBQ version): just play a never-ending version of this song.
A few months ago, I was trying to get the baby to calm down and for some reason I put on "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." And the boy calmed down. I laughed, and then tried it again the next time he was in a baby-freakout. And it worked again. In fact to this day, it has a 95% success rate on getting him to relax -- like, you can feel his muscles breathe more deeply as soon as that lilting guitar emerges. It's become his Bedtime Song (replacing "Edelweiss") and will usually put him to sleep by the time the ol' cook comes on deck saying fellas it's too rough to feed ya.
Here is a time he was asleep before the first words:
Our whole family, particularly our 4-year-old, has become obsessed with not just the song, but the shipwreck itself. In Detroit last month we saw the Old Mariner's Church, aka "the Maritime Sailors' Cathedral" from the last verse. We went to a maritime museum for the sole purpose of seeing an anchor from the Fitzgerald.
Last week the wee boy's barber asked him what kind of music he liked.
Wee Boy: The Edmund Fitzgerald.
Barber: Ella Fitzgerald?
Wee Boy: The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald!
We LOVE this song.
Today we are listening to it a zillion more times, but we are even more-than-usual thinking of the 29 men who sunk with the ship to the bottom of Lake Superior. As we learned from the museum, people still don't know for sure how/why it sunk. Great shipwrecks only 41 years ago -- oh, the mystery! It has somewhat ruined the Wee Boy for boating, but he knows all the words.
Look at this article from Newsweek that ran 2 weeks after the ship sank. Lightfoot used it for inspiration, as you can tell from the first paragraph: Accordion to a legend of the Chippewa tribe, the lake they once called "Gitche Gumee" never gives up her dead.
I mean, that's basically the first lyric in its entirety.
Another strange thing: he wrote that song 2-4 weeks after the ship sank. And it was a number one hit the next year. For y'all alive then ... did it feel too soon???
Anyway, I could go on and on about all the things I've learned about the ship. But for today: it's November 10, so today we are thinking about The Fitz and