Gordon Lightfoot / Last Word Features Contributed Photo

This story was updated at 1:33 p.m. on Saturday, July 20.

UPDATE: Due to an injury that has left Gordon Lightfoot unable to walk, his Sunday show at the Tivoli Theatre has been postponed until a later date.

Here's the official statement from his team:

"Due to an injury to Mr. Lightfoot's leg which has temporarily rendered him unable to walk, the Sunday, July 21 show at the Tivoli Theatre is being postponed to a later date. All tickets purchased for the July 21 date will be honored at the new date. We expect Mr. Lightfoot to make a complete recovery and a makeup date will be forthcoming."

Original story: 

Musicians win all kinds of awards. But few find themselves on a stamp, one of the highest honors a nation can bestow on one of its artists.

That's where Gordon Lightfoot landed in 2007 when the Canadian Post selected him, Anne Murray, Paul Anka and Joni Mitchell to have their images on postage stamps.

"When that came across my desk, I said 'Go ahead, let them do it. It sounds like fun,'" Lightfoot said. "That was great. It was an honor. I don't know how to say thank-you, but to work on my craft and be ready to go out there and perform."

So, at age 80, Lightfoot continues to play about 70 shows a year. About a dozen of them are in an annual trip to the United Kingdom. The rest are on 10-to-12-show runs through parts of the United States and Canada. He'll stop in Chattanooga for one of those shows on Sunday night, July 21, at the Tivoli Theatre.

The show, Lightfoot said, is a good one; two hours-plus of all the songs his fans want to hear and some lesser-known nuggets from his extensive catalog, played with his four-piece band.

The shows, of course, include Lightfoot's enduring classics: "If You Could Read My Mind," "Sundown," "Rainy Day People" and "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" — songs that continue to resonate after 40 years.

So what does he believe makes a song endure?

"I was taught it's a combination of a good song, a great arrangement and a great vocal," Lightfoot said.

"The vocal is very important. What makes a song endure is its content and the level of performance on it. It's got to be a really good song to have that kind of staying power and a great singer, the vocal, that's the flagship."

A song has to get exposure before it can connect, and sometimes that doesn't happen.

"Songs don't always pop right out. It can be a sleeper," Lightfoot said from his Toronto home. "I had one album that sat for eight months before the song got pulled out. That was 'If You Could Read My Mind.'"

"If You Could Read My Mind" became Lightfoot's breakthrough hit in 1970, starting him on a career-making decade. By that point, the then-32-year-old had already spent more than half his life studying, writing and making music.

A star track-and-field athlete and nose guard on his high school's football team, Lightfoot moved to Los Angeles in 1958 to study jazz composition and arrangement at Westlake College of Music. He supported himself by singing on demos and writing, arranging and playing on commercial jingles.

Returning to Canada, Lightfoot settled in Toronto, eventually landing a job writing and arranging scores tor 15-and-18-piece orchestras that performed on the Canadian Broadcasting Co.

A fixture in the local folk clubs, Lightfoot had a pair of hits in Toronto and Montreal and, by 1963, had traveled to Europe, where he ended up hosting BBC-TV's "Country and Western Show" for a year.

By 1965, Lightfoot had become known as a songwriter. His "Early Morning Rain," recorded by Ian and Sylvia Tyson, then Peter, Paul and Mary, started a run that saw Lightfoot compositions done by Marty Robbins, Judy Collins, Richie Havens and The Kingston Trio.

It wasn't until he moved to Warner Brothers Records, which finally recognized him as a singer as well as a songwriter and then stumbled upon "If You Could Read My Mind," that Lightfoot hit in the U.S.

Not coincidentally, Lightfoot's first marriage began to fall apart in the late '60s (the subject of "If You Could Read My Mind") and ended in 1973.

"As my first marriage failed, I was able to devote all my time to songwriting," Lightfoot said. "It's a very isolating experience, writing songs. You have to shut people out of your life. I had to work very hard at it."

Lightfoot made nine albums in the '70s, records that included his biggest hits. He continued to write and record albums through the '80s and '90s until he suffered an abdominal aneurysm in 2002.

He's released two albums since then — 2004's "Harmony" and a 2012 live disc — but recently revealed he is making a new album.

If you go

› What: Gordon Lightfoot: 80 Years Strong Tour

› Where: Tivoli Theatre, 709 Broad St.

› When: 8 p.m. Sunday, July 21

› Admission: $34.50-$99.50

› For more information: 423-757-5580


ChattanoogaNow Sections