Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind (2019)

gordon lightfoot if you could read my mind poster 2019 movie
7.5 Overall Score

Just a good musician with an interesting life

No shocker, for fans of Lightfoot

Movie Info

Movie Name: Gordon Lightfoot:  If You Could Read My Mind

Studio:  Kinosmith Inc.

Genre(s): Documentary/Musical

Release Date(s):  April 27, 2019 (Hot Docs International Documentary Festival)/March 22, 2020 (Canada)/July 29, 2020 (US)

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

gordon lightfoot if you could read my mind johnny cash show

Visiting Johnny Cash

Gordon Meredith Lightfoot Jr. was born in 1938 in Canada and found music was always part of his life.  With supportive parents, Gordon started small by singing in church but eventually decided to follow a musical path.  While educating himself in California, Lightfoot’s style and sound soon became popular among fans.  With lyrics that other songwriters dreamed about, Lightfoot found a slow and steady rise that eventually led to him being recognized as one of Canada’s best known performers.  With fame and success comes temptation and problems…and Gordon Lightfoot found both.  Nearing eighty, Lightfoot is now reflecting on his life, what he’s learned, and how it changed his style.

Directed by Martha Kehoe and Joan Tosoni, Gordon Lightfoot:  If You Could Read My Mind is a musical documentary.  The film premiered at the Hot Docs International Documentary Festival in 2019 but received a larger release in 2020.

gordon lightfoot if you could read my mind cathy smith relationship sundown

The inspiration behind “Sundown”

Gordon Lightfoot was another musician of childhood.  It was always exciting when “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” came on or “If You Could Read My Mind”…but I also enjoyed “Sundown” and “Carefree Highway”.  All four where big songs that received a lot of play here…but the importance of Lightfoot to Canada wasn’t always pushed.

The documentary pushes a typical older man who lived an untypical life.  Lightfoot comes off as reflective and sometimes regretful about aspects of his story, but for the most part, there is a fondness for the past and the tales he is telling.  Unlike many of his background, Lightfoot went to school and seemed to be voracious about learning the trade…which is evident in his work and composition.

I can’t say that the documentary is a real shocker as much as it is just a biography of Lightfoot for those who either like him or know little about his background.  The one surprising anecdote that I had never heard was about the song “Sundown” though it wasn’t a secret like something like Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain”.  The song was written about groupie Cathy Smith (April 25, 1947-August 16, 2020) who Lightfoot had a relationship with.  Cathy Smith later gained notoriety for being the woman who gave John Belushi his fatal injection of drugs in 1982.

gordon lightfoot if you could read my mind documentary singer

A long, interesting life as a performer

The documentary takes a natural feel.  The interviews are sometimes done on location and feel like they were quite guerilla in the sense that there wasn’t an effort to “make it a movie set”.  It also encompasses lots of interviews and performances which is always nice in a music biopic.

It is easy to forget how influential Lightfoot was and this documentary is a good reminder.  He reflects the classic 1970s singer, songwriter, and storyteller persona and the fact that his songs have such staying power and have been covered multiple times says something about his writing and ability as a performer.  Gordon Lightfoot:  If You Could Read My Mind is a good documentary which has you singing along whether you want to or not.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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