Writer and Original Performer: Gordon Lightfoot
Original Release: April 1970
Album: Sit Down Young Stranger (later renamed If You Could Read My Mind after the song's success)
A cover can be great for bringing new appreciation for a song you've known for years. Such was the case when I heard native Vermonter Henry Jamison's rendition of Gordon Lightfoot's classic "If You Could Read My Mind." I'm a sucker for an octave jump in the vocal (think Bono in the second chorus of "With or Without You") and Jamison does it a couple times in his interpretation. The cover also encouraged me to listen to the lyrics more closely...
I've lived this song. The story probably isn't so unusual. One day, a relationship that seems like it might last forever suddenly dies. Such was the case with my college girlfriend, the longest relationship I had before I met my wife. After a summer apart when we really didn't miss each other so much, we realized we didn't love each other anymore, not the way we had. The ending was still hard. Letting go after the end was still hard. But it was over and we both knew it. It wasn't easy understanding why. I particularly appreciate this feeling expressed in the second verse:
When you reach the part where the heartaches come,
The hero would be me.
Heroes often fail.
We must learn from loss and it was certainly an essential life lesson for me. Love, like a garden, requires nurturing. If your heart's not in the work, you're in trouble.
Lightfoot took inspiration from his own divorce. A lot of great music has come out of divorce experiences. His daughter encouraged a lyrical change which Lightfoot has since used in public performances, switching "the feeling that you lack" to "the feeling that we lack." While Lightfoot has not been a particularly successful husband - he's on marriage #3 now - he does seem to be a fairly compassionate person. He withdrew a plagiarism lawsuit over "Greatest Love of All" when he felt it was affecting Whitney Houston negatively - he was out to get the songwriter, not her.
A cover by fellow Canadians Diana Krall and Sarah McLachlan:
Want to hear all of the songs I have featured in a convenient playlist?
Enjoy: A Window Above
What are you listening to these days?