If You Could Read My Mind

Today I wanted to feature a song that I think has one of the most beautiful melodies paired with some of the greatest lyrics ever written.  Songs like this that have the whole package come along very rarely and when they do, they stay around.  This song has stayed around for a very long time and it is not going anywhere. 

Gordon Lightfoot has experienced different levels of success by fans, but I think his fellow artists are the ones who really appreciate this song the most.  This clearly shows by how many different artists have covered this song through the years.

This is not a happy song.  It tells the story of lost love and two people who have drifted apart.  Sometimes life is not like it is in the movies.  Gordon expresses this sentiment in this song about as well as anyone ever has.

I have included extensive information about Gordon Lightfoot that was written by one of his fans.  To see this article and much more about him, go to www.gordonlightfoot.com

This is a really amazing song that has stood the test of time.  I hope you enjoy!

Live performance on Canadian TV.

Live performance on BBC in 1972.

Live performance on the Midnight Special in 1974.

Live performance from Chicago in 1979.

How to play the song on guitar.

Guitar tutorial using strumming pattern.

If You Could Read My Mindis a song by Canadian singer/songwriter Gordon Lightfoot.  It reached number one on Canadian music charts and was his first recording to appear on the American music charts, reaching number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in January 1971.  Later in the year, it reached number 30 in the UK. Lightfoot has cited his divorce for inspiring the lyrics, saying they came to him as he was sitting in a vacant Toronto house one summer.

This song first appeared on Lightfoot’s 1970 album Sit Down Young Stranger.  The success of the single led Lightfoot’s label, Reprise Records, to retitle the album after the song.  The song also reached number one for one week on the Billboard Easy Listening chart, and was the first of four Lightfoot releases to reach number one.

The song is in major and uses the subtonic chord.

The great Canadian singer/songwriter Gordon Lightfoot has written some of the most beautiful and enduring songs of our time.  His soulful voice and rich guitar accompaniments have made him a true legend in the folk and pop music pantheon.

Gordon Lightfoot was born on November 17, 1938 in Orillia, Ontario, Canada.  His parents recognized and encouraged his interest in music; his first appearance at Massey Hall in Toronto, now a revered standard in his tour schedule, was just before he turned 13, as the winner of a competition for boys with unchanged voices.

After a background in barbershop quartets, and as a member of a duo, Lightfoot struck out on his own in the early 60s.  He had written perhaps 75 songs, when he was caught up in the country music scene and folk revival of the time; Bob Dylan’s music and a song by Merle Travis, Dark As A Dungeon, combined with his sensitivity, inventiveness and beautiful voice, resulted in his unique songwriting and singing style.  In less than two years, between late ’61 and some time in 1963, his sound and his life changed forever.

His music was discovered in 1964, when he was performing on the Toronto folk scene; Fellow Canadians Ian and Sylvia chose two of his songs, Early Mornin’ Rain and For Lovin’ Me for their next record, aptly named for the first song.  In addition to the two Lightfoot covers, both also include Steve Gillette’s Darcy Farrow, and Ian Tyson’s Red Velvet which Lightfoot would record decades late.

Ian Tyson introduced Lightfoot to Albert Grossman, their manager and also the manager of Peter, Paul and Mary, Gibson & Camp (Bob Gibson and Hamilton Camp), and Bob Dylan.  Peter, Paul and Mary recorded the same two songs as Ian and Sylvia and enjoyed considerable success with them, getting a Billboard top 100 hit with one of them.  Marty Robbins recorded Lightfoot’s Ribbon Of Darkness, as he says “in Gordon Lightfoot’s style”, and took it to the top of the Billboard Country charts.

Albert Grossman signed Lightfoot and under that arrangement he recorded five albums for United Artists, four studio albums and one live album – to this day, the only live album he has ever released.

The five albums Lightfoot recorded for United Artists – Lightfoot, The Way I Feel, Did She Mention My Name, Back Here On Earth, and Sunday Concert (live) – are a must for any fan’s collection.  These albums are not available individually but in compilations.  The popular United Artists Collection includes the four studio albums in one 2 CD set; one of several CDs will give you the complete Sunday Concert album.

At the completion of his contract with United Artists, Lightfoot signed with Warner/Reprise.  He split with Grossman at that time and formed his own company, an arrangement that continues to this day.  From 1970 through 1998, he released 14 more original albums including If You Could Read My Mind, Summer Side Of Life, Don Quixote, Old Dan’s Records, Sundown, Cold On The Shoulder, Summertime Dream, Endless Wire, Dream Street Rose, Shadows, Salute, East Of Midnight, Waiting For You, and his final Warner/Reprise album A Painter Passing Through.  Four of them, termed the “Final Four” by fans, were not released on CD until the summer of 2002.  In addition, he released two “greatest hits” compilations while signed to Warner, Gord’s Gold and Gord’s Gold Volume 2 on which a significant number of tracks that were new recordings.





His most recent studio album, Harmony was released in 2004 on Linus, a Canadian independent label.  It has two live recordings from his 2001 Massey concert series, and 9 new studio recordings which he laid down in early 2002 before his almost fatal illness in September of that year.  The CD was finished in the studio while he was still recuperating from his near brush with death.  A new live album called All Live has been announced for April, 2012.

Although he toured in the US and in Canada during the 60s, his chart appearances were in Canada only.  But following his first LP release with Warner Brothers – an album originally titled Sit Down Young Stranger – a disc jockey with a discerning taste in music began to play one of the tracks from that album on the radio.  It was not the title song, but the next track, a song titled If You Could Read My Mind.

If You Could Read My Mind was Lightfoot’s breakthrough on the US charts, reaching #5, and was to become one of the most frequently covered songs in popular music history.  It has been recorded by artists across the musical spectrum – country, folk, bluegrass, pop, even disco.  In 1998, a dance version was released, sung by three disco divas: Ultra Naté, Amber and Jocelyn Enriquez.

But the adaptability of his songs, and his own style, is not limited to this one song.  Lightfoot himself evolved from a country/folk sound, to folk/rock, pop, and adult contemporary styles.  Yet he is always able to move back and forth among the styles, performing his classics from the 60s (like Early Mornin’ Rain, Song For A Winter’s Night and Canadian Railroad Trilogy), his hits from the 70s (Sundown, Carefree Highway, Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald as well as If You Could Read My Mind), and material from the 80s, 90s and 2000s with equal ease and credibility.

After some harder edged music in the early 80s, followed by a very contemporary sound on his 1986 East Of Midnight album on which he co-wrote, with his friend David Foster, the very beautiful Anything For Love, he returned to his acoustic roots and recorded two albums in the 90s with a sound more reminiscent of his very early recordings.

From the 60s until today, many top artists have covered his songs, including Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan (and Lightfoot has recorded his songs as well), George Hamilton IV, Olivia Newton-John, Barbra Streisand, Tony Rice, Nanci Griffith and Sarah McLachlan as well as those mentioned above and other talented artists too numerous to list.  His achievements have been recognized in the music industry and in his native Canada.  He has five Grammy nominations and 17 Juno Awards (the Canadian equivalent) and was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall Of Fame in 1986.  In 1970, he received the prestigious Order Of Canada; in 1997 he received the Governor General’s award – the highest official Canadian honor; and in September, 2001, he was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall Of Famemore)–>.

Seven of his albums have gone “gold” or higher in the US; the most recent were Complete Greatest Hits, certified gold in April, 2008, and Gord’s Gold Volume 2, certified gold in September, 2001.

All of this discussion is mostly about the music, always beautiful, inventive, and performed with perfection at every concert appearance – a tribute to his fine backup band as well as to Lightfoot himself.  But it is perhaps his lyrics, and the combination of his words and music, that set him apart from all the others.  What is unique about Lightfoot is that he appears to have heightened senses; he sees, hears and feels things that most of us don’t; and then he can create the music and lyrics to help us see, hear and feel what he does.  Whether it is a love song, or a song of lost love, a historical ballad – which he writes like no other songwriter of the last half-century – or a highly personal song, what he says and how he says it leaves a lasting and often evolving impression as the listener uncovers new layers of meaning in the song.

In 1999 Rhino Records released Gordon Lightfoot Songbook, a four CD boxed set of Lightfoot recordings, and a long overdue tribute to one of the greatest singer/songwriters that ever lived.  In April 2002, Rhino released Gordon Lightfoot Complete Greatest Hits. This album is a wonderful collection of his hits, and brings together the four biggest onto one album for the first time.  Complete Greatest Hits quickly went gold in Canada, and can be expected to eventually go gold in the US. 

In April, 2000, Lightfoot taped a live concert in Reno, NV.  A one hour show was broadcast by CBC in October, and a PBS special was aired on many PBS stations across the US.  PBS stations offered a videotape of the concert as a pledge gift, and a tape and DVD were released in 2001 and early 2002 in Europe and North America.  This video, Gordon Lightfoot: Live In Reno is the first Lightfoot concert video ever released. 

In a career spanning more than 45 years, he has recorded over 200 songs, and written many more.  He has influenced the sound of other highly successful artists who have credited him as a major influence (for example, Dan Fogelberg, Jimmy Buffett, Jim Croce and Ron Sexsmith).  If you only know Lightfoot for his hits, then you are missing a lot of the treasures.  If you like music, just about any style, you are sure to find a favorite song among the many he has written and recorded.

Bob Dylan calls Lightfoot one of his favorite songwriters.

If You Could Read My Mind remains one of the key highlights of his concert performances, and is delivered with feeling and poignancy night after night.

Other versions

  • The song was covered by Barbra Streisand on her 1970 album, Stoney End.
  • In 1980, Viola Wills peaked at number two for five weeks on the dance/disco charts with a dance version of the song.
  • The house music collective Stars on 54 recorded a version of the song for the 1998 film, 54, reaching number three on the dance charts.

The song has been covered by many other artists, including Petula Clark, Jack Jones, Don Williams, Johnny Cash, Duane Steele, Don McLean, Kalan Porter, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, Olivia Newton-John, Liza Minnelli, Glen Campbell, Gene Clark, The Spotnicks, Aurora featuring Marcella Detroit, Amber, Gordon Haskell, Vikki Carr, the Mexican Actress/model/singer Isabel Madow covered in Spanish lyrics under the name of “Sí Pudieras Leer Mi Mente”, Beckie Menzie and Joe Dassin (in French lyrics “Si tu peux lire en moi”).  The covered version by The Spotnicks was adopted like an unofficial theme for the 1972 Summer Olympics

Country music artist Dwight Yoakam performs the song in his live sets on a regular basis.

It has also been used in motion pictures and television shows, including:

If You Could Read My Mind

by Gordon Lightfoot

If you could read my mind, love,
What a tale my thoughts could tell.
Just like an old time movie,
‘Bout a ghost from a wishing well.
In a castle dark or a fortress strong,
With chains upon my feet.
You know that ghost is me.
And I will never be set free
As long as I’m a ghost that you can’t see.
If I could read your mind, love,
What a tale your thoughts could tell.
Just like a paperback novel,
The kind the drugstores sell.
Then you reached the part where the heartaches come,
The hero would be me.
But heroes often fail,
And you won’t read that book again
Because the ending’s just too hard to take!
I’d walk away like a movie star
Who gets burned in a three way script.
Enter number two:
A movie queen to play the scene
Of bringing all the good things out in me.
But for now, love, let’s be real;
I never thought I could  feel this way
And I’ve got to say that I just don’t get it.
I don’t know where we went wrong,
But the feeling’s gone
And I just can’t get it back.
If you could read my mind, love,
What a tale my thoughts could tell.
Just like an old time movie,
‘Bout a ghost from a wishing well.
In a castle dark or a fortress strong.
With chains upon my feet.
But stories always end,
And if you read between the lines,
You’d know that I’m just tryin’ to understand
The feelin’s that you lack.
I never thought I could feel this way
And I’ve got to say that I just don’t get it.
I don’t know where we went wrong,
But the feelin’s gone
And I just can’t get it back!

About wmarsau

Most of the people who visit this blog already know me so it is kind of pointless to try to describe my life in this short little blurb. What is the purpose of this blog is the question. Over the course of this last year I have been exposed to some amazing people and have made personal development an important focus of my life. Being successful, not by the world's standards, but by God's has become my main focus. Mainly, I want to work to develop myself as a person who is kinder, reaches out to help those in need, and truly makes a difference in this world. To this end I am constantly reading and am exposed to so many differnet things along the way. These have been amazing and it is helping me grow so much. Then I started to think, "Why am I being so selfish?" You need to share with others these amazing things you are learning and being exposed to. That is where this blog comes into play. As I am reading and experiencing things that are truly amazing and life changing, I will be posting them on this blog. Obviously, I will not be able to post everything in it's entirity, but I will be summarizing them and letting you know the source of the article or book they come from so you can check them out later if you wish. I want this blog to be a place where you can go to often and be inspired and leave here with a smile on your face. I will be covering all kinds of different topics dealing with success and personal development. Topics like taking action, relationships, living to your potential, reinventing yourself, finances, leadership, presenting, goal setting, time management, etc. I will also be occasionally including topics on cooking, music, and gardening because they are special interests of mine. As a little disclaimer, I have given my life to the Lord and he is #1 in my life. I am his servant and everything I do in life is for his glory. With that being said, religion influences all areas of my life. There will be references to God in this blog because I can't seperate God from this or any other area of my life. I want you to know that if you do not believe in God, that is fine. That is your choice. This blog is open to anyone who wants to better their life. I will not be trying to influence or pressure anyone into having a relationship with the Lord from this site. Please don't feel uncomfortable. You can just read the portions of the blog that you wish to. I am inviting you to go on a journey with me. We will learn together to be the kind of people we were designed to be. Anyone can make a difference in this world, but it starts%
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