9 Gordon Lightfoot songs for your summer cottage playlist

collage of Gordon Light postage stamp and highway sign Photo by catwalker/Shutterstock, Photo by Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock

If you love music, make sure to check out the Tall Pines Music & Arts Festival, happening June 16–17. Code CottageLife15 gets you 15% off tickets!

Gordon Lightfoot is one of Canada’s most iconic singer-songwriters. Born and raised in Orillia, Ont., he achieved popularity in the 1960s and 70s as a folk and country music artist with a real knack for the guitar. His songs are about the history and beauty of Canada, political and social issues, and love, loss, and loneliness. 

Lightfoot has been dubbed Canada’s favourite songwriter and its most influential international musician. His songs particularly resonate in cottage country, where his lyrics often reflect on the beauty of the natural landscape of the region. We’ve curated nine Gordon Lightfoot songs to add to your cottage playlist and enhance the feel-good vibes this summer.

1. “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” 

One of Lightfoot’s most popular and well-known songs, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” tells the story of the eponymous ship that sank in Lake Superior in November 1975. It’s a song about the brutality of nature, but also the beauty and mystery of the Great Lakes. We don’t recommend listening to this song while boating, though! 

2. “Christian Island (Georgian Bay)” 

This is a classic cottage song and perfect for a day on the water. It was inspired by one of Lightfoot’s many trips to Christian Island in Georgian Bay. In December 2022, we ran a story on a community that also loves Christian Island so much they’ve been cottaging there together for decades

3. “Carefree Highway”

Are you looking for the best song to listen to on the drive up to the cottage? Look no further than “Carefree Highway.” This song will make you want to roll your windows down, let the wind run through your hair, and forget your worries. 

4. “Sundown” 

A beautiful, bright, and sunny song about love and longing that’s perfect for those feel-good cottage vibes. Listen to this song while watching the sunset at the end of your dock. We also love when readers take photos of sunsets and tag us on our Instagram.

5. “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” 

Gordon Lightfoot was commissioned by CBC to write a song for Canada’s centennial anniversary in 1967 and “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” was the result. Reflecting the optimistic tone of building the Canadian Pacific Railway, this song will make you proud to be Canadian and part of such a rich history. From the Rockies to Gaspé, the song covers the entirety of this great nation.

6. “Pussywillows, Cat-Tails” 

This one is purely good fun. Inspired by Lightfoot’s youth in Orillia, it is an ode to Canada’s beauty that lasts through every season, beginning with the “soft winds” of spring and ending with the “harsh nights” of winter. It’s perfect for the cottage at any time of year.

7. “The Watchman’s Gone” 

Lightfoot sings about Canada’s time-honoured tradition of train hopping and seeing the beauty of the country from the windows of a passing train. Although the watchman is trying to kick the train hoppers out, this doesn’t stop Lightfoot from wanting “to follow the golden sun.” 

8. “Steel Rail Blues”

Trains and railroads are a common theme throughout Lightfoot’s songwriting. In this railroad song, Lightfoot invokes images of a carefree Canada mixed with a lover’s longing for his sweetheart back home. Even though the lovers in this song are never reunited, its tone is still lighthearted and jovial and great for your next journey, whether by train, plane, or car. 

9. “Early Morning Rain” 

Lightfoot wrote this after watching a friend depart from the Los Angeles airport, where he was feeling particularly homesick for Canada. Whether you’re longing for home or for the cottage, this song is the perfect conclusion to a weekend getaway and the best way to cap off your next cottage trip.

You can listen to our playlist here.

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