When The Gales Of November Came Early
November 10, 2009
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.
If you’re from Michigan … or Wisconsin … or Minnesota or Ontario or any place that touches the Great Lakes you probably grew up hearing Gordon Lightfoot’s commemorative ballad played (and overplayed) every November. While looking for lyrics to the song, I came across this page about the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald on Gordon Lightfoot’s web site.
“According to a legend of the Chippewa tribe, the lake they once called Gitche Gumee ‘never gives up her dead.’”
~Great Lakes: The Cruelest Month, James R. Gaines with Jon Lowell in Detroit, Newsweek Magazine
Thus began the Newsweek article in the issue of November 24, 1975. That lead and the news magazine’s dry story inspired Gordon Lightfoot to write one of the greatest “story songs” ever…
Lightfoot wrote Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald as a tribute to the ship, the sea, and the men who lost their lives that night. When asked recently what he thought his most significant contribution to music was, he said it was this song, which he often refers to as “The Wreck”. In spite of its unlikely subject matter, the song climbed to #2 on the Billboard pop charts and Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald remains one the most stirring topical ballads ever written and a highlight of every Lightfoot concert.
There’s not way I’m not going to
link over to include* Joseph Fulton’s amazing tribute video to the 29 men who died November 10, 1975 aboard the Edmund Fitzgerald. If you haven’t watched this, do it. It’s one of the best videos on the internet and shows the power of the Fitz and of Superior.
*And break my own rule of “just photos” – sorry about that if it bothers you.