If You Could Read My Mind

There are many world-renowned musicians and bands that my country Canada has produced. One of them is singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot, an incredibly talented balladeer of folk, folk-rock and country music who has an unmistakable sound. Even as a younger man, he had a depth and gentleness in his voice that belied the age at which he became famous.

Lightfoot has said that his divorce inspired the lyrics for “If You Could Read My Mind,” which is a beautifully melancholy piece of music. I usually try to post an uplifting song on Fridays, heading into the weekend, but this song came into my YouTube feed… actually, it was music producer and educator Rick Beato’s breakdown of the song in episode 94 of his What Makes This Song Great? series that my feed has featured for a few days, and watching it compelled me to share the song. There’s something remarkable about the lyrics, musicianship, singing and production that makes it so beautiful and captivating. (I also recommend watching the Beato video, which is posted beneath the audio for the song.)

At one point in his video, Beato tells how part of the rich, emotive soundscape is created in part by Lightfoot’s vocal and guitar in the left speaker, while the acoustic guitar fills by folk guitarist Laurice Milton “Red” Shea (1933-2008) play from the right speaker. (I hadn’t even noticed that before!) Of course, the strings add much to the depth of the song, too.

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 wishin’ 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
When you reach 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 act 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 wishin’ 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’ll know that I’m just tryin’ to understand
The feelings 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 feeling’s gone and I just can’t get it back

(“If You Could Read My Mind,” by Gordon Lightfoot.
Unofficial lyrics courtesy of AZLyrics.com.)

I am always caught by the emotion in this lovely song. Lightfoot was another family favourite in my childhood home, and hearing his music makes me think of that life, many years ago.

The song appears on Lightfoot’s 1970 album, Sit Down Young Stranger, later retitled as If You Could Read My Mind, due to the success of the song.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from Gordon Lightfoot’s official YouTube channel:

And, here’s Rick Beato’s take on the song, telling the story of how his older brother taught him to hear the production elements in music.

2 thoughts on “If You Could Read My Mind

  1. Gordon Lightfoot is one of my all time favorite singer/songwriters, and though this song may not be uplifting I always find listening to Gordon Lightfoot is, as I have so many good memories associated with his music. Around twenty years ago I had the opportunity to drive across Canada from St. John’s NL to Vancouver BC, and up North to Dawson Creek and up the Alaska highway, several times over the course of two years, and among my CDs for the road trip was Gord’s Gold. Though I played other music on these trips, Gordon Lightfoot was played the most often and became the unofficial soundtrack of my cross country adventures.

    After reading your post today I listened to the song, then put on my Gord’s Gold CD, which I still have. It was an hour filled with great music and wonderful memories. Thanks for this uplifting Friday post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a great story, Stephen; thanks so much for sharing. Gordon Lightfoot is indeed a fine musician and what a wonderful companion for your road journeys across this land. I’m glad to have played a small role in your hour of music enjoyment. Thank you again and have a beautiful rest of your day!

      Like

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