The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Something for the weekend.  The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot.  I have featured this song before in one of my Saturday posts, but the superb video above that melds the song with information about the sinking of SS Edmund Fitzgerald compelled me to post it again.  Besides we can never have too much Gordon Lightfoot, one of the few musical brightspots in that vast musical wasteland of the last century known as the Seventies.

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.


  1. St. Elmo, pray for us!

    I think these are the original words for the US Navy Hymn.

    Eternal Father, Strong to save,
    Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
    Who bid’st the mighty Ocean deep
    Its own appointed limits keep;
    O hear us when we cry to thee,
    for those in peril on the sea.

    O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
    And hushed their raging at Thy word,
    Who walked’st on the foaming deep,
    and calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
    Oh hear us when we cry to Thee
    For those in peril on the sea!

    Most Holy spirit! Who didst brood
    Upon the chaos dark and rude,
    And bid its angry tumult cease,
    And give, for wild confusion, peace;
    Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee
    For those in peril on the sea!

    O Trinity of love and power!
    Our brethren shield in danger’s hour;
    From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
    Protect them wheresoe’er they go;
    Thus evermore shall rise to Thee,
    Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

    I bet the liberals plan to have this eliminated, too.

  2. “We can never have too much Gordon Lightfoot.”

    In that case you should enjoy this classic SCTV commercial for the 379-album set, “Gordon Lightfoot Sings Every Song Ever Written” (it’s actually Rick Moranis singing):


    I’ve heard that to this day, people jokingly ask Gordon to sing “76 Trombones” at his concerts because of this sketch…

  3. Don thanks for this excellent post. As an 11 year old kid growing up in a Great Lakes state, I remember the event like it was yesterday. Captain McSorley (who lived in Toledo) didn’t live that far from me. As a matter of fact, many of the crew was also from Ohio. The Great Lakes can be quite fierce and even huge ships like the Edmund Fitzgerald (which I believe when she was built was the largest ship of her kind on the Great Lakes) can sink. It is all so very humbling and brings home our mortality. I will have to take issue with you on your quip about 70s music. As a child of the 70s and 80s, I think it was a great era in music history. It sure beats the black hole which we find ourselves in today. Anyway, again Don thanks for another great post!

  4. The Wreck of the Edmund Fitxgerald was the first Gordon LIghtfooy song I ever heard. It was also the first song of his I learned to play on guitar. Although much of the 70s was a musical wasteland, his particular genre wasn’t. There were many great artists like Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr. (better known as John Denver), Jim Croce, Harry Chapin, Dan Fogelberg, and Cat Stevens. Although the latter’s behavior as Yusef Islam is a heartbreak, to say the least, he was a great artist.

  5. That song just haunts. Nothing short of brilliant–I can picture surging waves on a cold, cloudy fall day from the first notes.

    Dave is right–she was the Queen of the Lakes when she was launched, and still one of the biggest when she sank. The Lakes claimed at least one big ship a decade through the 70s, but–thank God–none since. The way they used to be crewed, they tended to get crewman in clusters from an area, and it was common for extended family members to sail together. Rogers City, Michigan, lost 23 men when the Carl D. Bradley broke apart on Lake Michigan in 1958.

  6. Thanks Don – a great number by Gordy.

    Great also to see I have some reinforcements in the 70’s music debate 😉 – thanks Dave and Greg.
    Because of the song is of a nautical theme, and being a sailor who olves the sea and sailing on it, may I provide for your enrapture, another GREAT 70’s group, Crosby Stills and Nash, singing one of my all time favorites, “Southern Cross”. May times when sailing at night, I have looked up to the heavens and seen this great heavenly sign which is featured on our national flag, and wonder – again – at the magnificence of creation.

    Enjoy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bw9gLjEGJrw

  7. … but I’m not having that much fun after his music and the Naval Hymn are over.
    The ship was so full (of rock and sand?) that it reached the breaking point in the stormy conditions. What stays in mind is the breaking apart part.
    The subj. of the posts about our country, between which this one is, hint at some symbolism in the Edmund Fitzgerald to our nation overloaded with waste of life, purpose, and money.

  8. Don the Kiwi: I olive the sea, too. Noah olived the sea and the eagle, the symbol of the swiftness of God’s Justice, on the Great Seal of The United States of America olives the sea. The olive branch has been the symbol for peace since Noah. The Southern Cross on our national flag I do not know. No ridicule intended. I read “olive”.
    P.M. The streets of New York were paved with cobblestone, or Belgian block, used as ballast for an empty ship. Gordon Lightfoot’s singing is indeed haunting. Is Lightfoot the author of the song?

  9. Thanks so much for the post. I remember the tragedy of the Edmond Fitzgerald. I live in MN and on the anniversary of the sinking there is usually an article in the local papers. Such a loss of life. God rest their souls. Also, checked out YouTube to listen to a few Gordon Lightfoot gems. I especially liked the song, Beautiful. Good evening to all.

  10. The “Maritime Sailors’ Cathedral” in Detroit still exists — it’s actually called the Mariners’ Church of Detroit and until the early 1990s was affiliated with the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan. Today it is an independent church but still uses Anglican liturgy based on the 1928 Book of Common Prayer (which must be very beautiful).

    Until 2006 the church tolled its bell “twenty-nine times for each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald” every Nov. 10; now it has switched to having an annual memorial service on or near that date commemorating all sailors lost on the Great Lakes.

  11. The video ends with a list of the names, ages, job and hometown of each man lost. I
    was astonished to see that over half of the men in that crew were in their 50’s and 60’s.

    All that skill and experience from so many years spent shipping on the Lakes was no
    match for an unforgiving nature…

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