When The Gales Of November Came Early

When The Gales Of November Came Early

When The Gales Of November Came Early, photo by siskokid.

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.

More Edmund Fitzgerald and more shipwrecks on Michigan in Pictures.

Check this out bigger and see Jim’s whole Lake Superior set (slideshow).

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.

6 thoughts on “When The Gales Of November Came Early

  1. Love your photos and video, except for the fact that your weather is probably headed our way! We live on Lake Erie in Northeastern Ohio – winter on the Great Lakes is fascinating weather-wise. The wind howls, the waves crash. There is a museum in Vermillion, Ohio, The Inland Seas Maritime Museum, that has a great Edmund Fitzgerald section. Their web site is http://www.inlandseas.org. They are closed this winter but if you are interested in shipwrecks of the Great Lakes their web site has a virtual tour. North Coast Muse @ http://sally1029.wordpress.com


  2. November 10 – Edmund Fitzgerald Memorial Service
    . A memorial service for the men lost on the Edmund Fitzgerald was held on
    November 10 at Dr. Henri Belanger Park in River Rouge, Mi.
    The service will be held near the Mariners Memorial Lighthouse beginning at 6:00 p.m.
    The tug boat will be on hand to take out a wreath to be placed on the river.
    The service will feature a plaque presentation, bell ringing, lantern lighting,
    and refreshments will be served.

    The service was at River Rouge Michigan on the Detroit River next to where the ship was
    built at the slips and on the other side is where Zug Island is located.

    A Special
    Edmund Fitzgerald
    Open House

    Was open to the pubic from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm at the River Rouge Historical Museum

    River Rouge Historical Museum
    10750 W. Jefferson Ave.
    River Rouge, Michigan 48218
    (Formerly Gallagher Funeral Home)


  3. Poignant and well done, hauntingly beautiful video. Gordon did a beautiful tribute as well, his song really recreates the life on a ship at ‘sea’ ‘, and the terrible weather and fate.


  4. I believe the waves overtook her, and it was a fast capsize. What a sad song, but also beautiful. God bless the men whip perished that November night. I was a kid then… I remember this song. I hope Gordon donated part of what he earned to the families.


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