I looked back. I had never posted this song before. That is a surprise, since, in my mind, it was one of the first I had in mind to put on this blog. (I did post a cover of it by the Dandy Warhols on our sister blog, Totally Covered. You can see that here.)
The SS Edmund Fitzgerald was launched on June 8, 1958, the largest ship on the Great Lakes. She was built to carry large amounts of iron ore between Duluth, Minnesota and other Great Lakes cities, like Toledo and Detroit, that relied on said ore.
On November 9, 1975, The SS Edmund Fitzgerald pulled out of Duluth for the last time, en route to Detroit. The very next day, the ship was caught in a severe winter storm and suddenly sank, killing all 29 crew members on board. No bodies were ever recovered from the wreck.
Gordon Lightfoot, who is a Canadian treasure, read a Newsweek article about the tragedy, and wrote this song, which he considers his finest work, as do I. Despite the minor historical inaccuracies of the song - the ship wasn't bound for Cleveland, the main hatchway apparently didn't really give way - it is a fitting and beautiful tribute to the ship, the crew, and the disaster. It remains one of my 20 favorite songs of all time, in its beautiful storytelling and simple musical arrangement.
I mention the historical inaccuracies because, in 2010, 35 years after the song was released, Gordon changed the lyrics to reflect the fact that the main hatch didn't give way, and that it was not crew error, but waves that caused the ship to go down. Here is Gord performing the song live in 2012, with the new lyrics. He's still got it.