Friday, November 10, 2017

The Legend Lives On...

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they called 'Gitche Gumee'
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy
With a load of iron ore, twenty-six thousand tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty
That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
When the gales of November came early.

The ship was the pride of the American side
Coming back from some mill in Wisconsin
As the big freighters go, it was bigger than most
With a crew and good captain well-seasoned
Concluding some terms with a couple steel firms
When they left fully loaded for Cleveland
And later that night when the ship's bell rang
Could it be the north wind they'd been feelin'?

The wind in the wires made the tattle-tale sound
And the wave broke over the railing
And every man knew, as the captain did too
T'was the witch of November come stealin'
The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
When the gales of November came slashin'
When afternoon came, it was freezin' rain
In the face of a hurricane west wind.

When supper time came, the old cook came on deck sayin'
Fellas, it's too rough to feed ya
At 7 P.M. a main hatchway caved in, he said
Fellas, it's been good to know ya'
The captain wired in he had water comin' in
And the good ship and crew was in peril
And later that night when his lights went out of sight
Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Does anyone know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours?
The searchers all say they'd have made Whitefish Bay
If they'd put fifteen more miles behind her
They might have split up or they might have capsized
They may have broke deep and took water
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters.

Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
In the rooms of her ice-water mansion
Old Michigan steams like a young man's dreams
The islands and bays are for sportsmen
And farther below Lake Ontario
Takes in what Lake Erie can send her
And the iron boats go, as the mariners all know
With the gales of November remembered.

In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed
In the Maritime Sailors' Cathedral
The church bell chimed 'til it rang twenty-nine times
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald
The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call 'Gitche Gumee'
Superior, they said, never gives up her dead
When the gales of November come early!

Written By: Gordon Lightfoot

~I was raised in (and still live in) the Great Lakes region. I remember this tragedy. I have been to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at the Whitefish Point Lighthouse, just beyond where the Fitzgerald went down. The museum continues to remember the most famous Great Lakes shipwreck with an annual ceremony. The bell is rung 29 times, once for each member of the Edmund Fitzgerald crew, and a 30th time for all who have lost their lives on the Great Lakes. It is with great respect that I remember and honour the crew of The Edmund Fitzgerald, lost to the gales of November 10, 1975.~


  1. That is such a haunting song about a terrible tragedy. I would love to visit that museum someday.

    1. Thank you, Roby. These men died doing their job. Now, they are part of history. Similar to mining, this job is a way of life in the Great Lakes area, and often generational.

  2. This song always gives me chills. It was one of the earliest tunes my first love learned to sing while playing the guitar I gave him. ~sigh~ Memories... I should make the drive to attend this ceremony some year.

  3. I know the story from the song, but didn't realize it had happened so recently. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Yes, they are now part of history. I don't think this will ever be forgotten.

    Have a fabulous day, Annie. ♥

  5. As I listened to this song, the wind is blowing outside and the cold rain is turning to snow and it feels very eerie. A sad piece of history captures in this beautiful song. May they rest in peace.
    Hugs, Julia

  6. OMC! TW used to LOVE Gordon Lightfoot. She still has all his albums. After work was complete on the Peace Ship, he did a benefit concert and all the volunteers were invited. TW's mom wouldn't let her go cos she was still in high school and her peeps hated her BF who she volunteered with and would be going to the concert with.

  7. I have always enjoyed Gordon Lightfoot singing this song. Now that you have mentioned it and turned it over in my mind. I want to go and see the Lighthouse and museum.


  8. I hadn't heard the song until a few months ago - it's haunting and captivating. I've been to the Shipwreck Museum too. I love the Great Lakes region - I spent a lot of time up there growing up because my father is from Frankenmuth, Michigan. During our summer visits, we'd always go to Caseville. And every couple of years, we'd tour the UP (Tahquamenon Falls, Mackinaw Island, Sault Ste. Marie, etc). If there's one thing I learned about the Lakes, it's to respect Lake Superior. She beautiful - but dangerous - and demands respect. We also vacationed in several spots around the region - mainly on the west side in Wisconsin. I LOVE the region. It's stunningly beautiful - just to watch the water. I wish I could take the cold though.

  9. That is one of my favorite songs and it wasn't until I was an adult that I realized it was a real tragedy! It made the song even more awesome.

  10. I met a fellow a few years ago, who worked the waters, back in that time. He followed along with the events, in real time.

    I have several Gordon Lightfoot recordings. This one is a favorite, as is his earlier shipwreck account, "Ballad of Yarmouth Castle."

    It is ironic that you focus on Lightfoot here, as I called a friend who still lives in Memphis, where I am from... I called him night before last, and opened the conversation with a supposition about Gordon Lightfoot; just something I have had on my mind for a few days.

    Gosh, am I rambling or what? Happy T.G.I.F., Annie.

  11. It makes me choke up every time i hear the song or even think of it. The life of a sailor is not easy.

  12. I have always liked this song and everything by Gordon Lightfoot. A great Veteran's Day post. XOCK, Lily Olivia, Mauricio, Misty May, Giulietta, angel Fiona, Astrid, Lisbeth, Calista Jo and Cooper Murphy

  13. My daughter in law and two grandsons and another family are in Duluth right now so they can see the light turned on at the Split Rock Lighthouse in their honor every November 11th. It's the one day out of the year it shines. The tour there even without the light is incredible.