Gordon Lightfoot’s Induction into the Mariposa Hall of Fame
“I really love it, I really do, but it makes me cry.”
Lightfoot and Mariposa: A love affair that withstands the test of time
Canadian musician, artist, and storyteller Tom Wilson was fully aware of the responsibility when asked to curate a performance to honour Gordon Lightfoot’s induction to the Mariposa Hall of Fame.
“I didn’t take it lightly. We were praising a higher power,” said Wilson referring to Lightfoot’s status among his peers. “Gord’s voice has brought comfort to us. He is so gracious, so kind. It’s not the kind of thing you want to mess up.”
Gathered on stage at the Festival on July 10, 2022, for a stirring performance of Lightfoot’s Alberta Bound were Wilson and his Blackie and the Rodeo Kings bandmates Colin Linden and Stephen Fearing as well as Anne Lindsay, James Keelaghan, Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor, Serena Ryder, Bruce Good, Brian Good, Larry Good, Mike Boguski, and Bazil Donovan.
Photo credit: Mike Bailey
The audience was in rapture. Clearly, Wilson didn’t mess up.
In his acceptance of the award, Gordon Lightfoot was moved and bowed to the crowd. “I really love it, I really do, but it makes me cry,” he said to the Mariposa faithful that reflected love back to Orillia’s native son.
Lightfoot’s history with The Mariposa Folk Festival goes back almost to the very beginning.
He and his then singing partner, Terry Whelan, were actually turned down by the inaugural Mariposa Folk Festival of 1961.
“We were hometown boys, but they said we sounded too much like the Everly Brothers! That couldn’t be all bad,” said Lightfoot. The next year though, Lightfoot was hired as a solo act and joined the likes of Oscar Brand, the Travellers, and Ian & Sylvia at the Lion’s Oval in Orillia.
No artist has since played the festival more often, and today, the Mariposa Folk Festival is not complete without a surprise mainstage appearance by the legend. “It feels like coming home to me,” said Lightfoot. “On stage at Mariposa with the sun setting on Tudhope Park is magic – always has been, always will be.”
In his presentation of the award, Wilson described Gordon Lightfoot’s unique impact not only on the Canadian music scene but on the country itself. “So many wonderful artists have been here on this stage… but Gordon Lightfoot lives in our blood,” said Wilson.
Reflecting on the personal significance of curating the Hall of Fame induction performance, Tom Wilson recalled his mother’s love of Mariposa and how she introduced him to the music of Gordon Lightfoot.
“Blood holds all our memories. I remember my mother going to Mariposa. Years ago, she used to come to Hamilton to visit me from time to time. She showed up once with a copy of a record… Across the top of the record was ‘Lightfoot’ and a guy leaning in a studio chair with a guitar – when I dropped the needle on that record, my life changed,” said Wilson.
Mariposa Folk Foundation President, Pam Carter, had a sense that the induction could become another magical Mariposa moment.
“The artists who gathered to pay tribute were so gracious and grateful. When they came together with Gord on the mainstage and played Alberta Bound, goosebumps don’t sufficiently capture it. Tom did a marvellous job and I felt we could be witnessing a moment in Canadian music history,” said Carter.
“The number of world-class artists that have graced our stage is truly exceptional,” she added. “Among these, however, Gordon Lightfoot stands apart for his unique contribution and commitment. Was his enshrinement overdue? Of course, it was. We kept trying to find the right timing and venue. In the end, the Foundation could not have been more honoured to celebrate our love affair with Gordon at last year’s festival.”
The evening culminated with Blue Rodeo’s headlining set that included a cover of Lightfoot’s Go-Go Round that brought the audience to its feet.
“How Gord felt about the experience was clear to me when he sat side-stage during the stunning Blue Rodeo set. The look on his face when they performed Go-Go Round, well that said it all,” said Carter who summed up the meaning of the event. “There’s a reason we celebrate long-lasting relationships – let alone those of more than 60 years. The truth is, Mariposa loves Gordon Lightfoot and we’re so blessed that he loves us back.”