Nothing is better than a great, steaming cup of Folgers Black Silk, a crisp autumn morning and listening to acoustic music. The genre lost a giant this past week with the passing of Gordon Lightfoot.
My relationship with acoustic music has taken a downward turn since an Upstate radio station dropped The Acoustic Storm, a great nationwide program. I know I can subscribe to it and I will figure that out once I retire (one of many projects for that time of life), but for right now, it’s music videos on YouTube, which has assembled an album for me. It’s so refreshing when people do things for you, unasked.
Pat and I saw Gordon Lightfoot on stage in Spartanburg. Like many performers up in age, he let the backups carry some tunes; but on his big hits, his voice stepped right up.
Reminded me of the time I saw Joan Baez at the Newberry Opera House. She had assembled a small ensemble and you felt she was kind of holding back. Then, the stage went silent, the spotlight hit her and, you guessed it, “The Night That Drove Old Dixie Down.” No one can sing it like that! The Voice that launched a thousand Vietnam War protests.
Or the time I saw Pam Tillis at the Weldon Auditorium in Manning. She was so gracious to talk to me by (landline) phone from her kitchen over coffee, pre-concert, and she was comfortable greeting fans post-concert in the lobby. She had two young women singing with her, and you could tell they were kind of like apprentices. They knew when to step in, and when to step out - like on “Maybe It Was Memphis.”
The best acoustic show I’ve ever seen was Travis Tritt, again at the Newberry Opera House. He’s not in the “old age” category of Gordon Lightfoot, but he did strip down lots of his raucous songs. Impactful, in a different way.
In my younger days, I saw a John Denver concert (in the round) and America at the old Carolina Coliseum (also, Three Dog Night).
Our next concert adventure is Tom Jones in North Charleston - definitely not acoustic but, I bet, “Green, Green Grass of Home” would sound cool in an acoustic treatment.
For his part, Gordon Lightfoot said Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan were among his important musical influences. According to CNN, “His life and legacy were examined in a 2020 documentary, ‘Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind.’ ‘I was disturbed by the fact that hardly anybody had a bad word to say about me,’ Lightfoot said of the documentary.
The photo above is from that thing you are never, ever supposed to do at a live concert -- Pat took Gordon’s picture. You’re not supposed to do it because Name, Image, and Likeness are the only currency that performers have, and giving it away for free is not financially sound. I suspect Gordon would not have minded that much, however.
Of course, it’s sad to see our iconic musicians pass away. Just as it’s tragic that we have lost so many singer-songwriters before their prime. I was on the wire desk at Florence the night John Lennon was shot (stop the press!) and when Harry Chapin was killed in a car wreck. Gone, too young.
Gordon Lightfoot joins them now, but his words still come to us, like a ghost from a wishing well.
Vic MacDonald is Editor of The Clinton Chronicle. His favorite acoustic song is “Landslide”. In June, 2025, Vic will observe his 50th year in community journalism. Reach him at 864-833-1900.
Ringing the bell here.
And an article here.