On the shores of the Great Lakes, to the horizon on a cloudy and windy day there is strewn a palette of crisp greys. A stark and steely vista is to be beheld by the eye. Wind cast waves break and fly apart as they crash into rocks sending spray upwards and about. It is a stark, brisk and worrisome beauty displayed for the gloomy aesthete. It is no joy to a mariner.
On such a wind tossed stormy day, the witch of November came on the tenth and sent the men on board of the Edmund Fitzgerald to a quick, wet end. Gordon Lightfoot set the incident to tune and song, within the form of a tragic ballad worthy of folklore with wording fitting Longfellow or Poe. It is sad and true and poignant to the core.
There is a melancholy oeuvre of wrecks ship and train, murder and pining love and fallen hero that is sung with sweet sorrow that form the skeleton to at least one strain of folk music. These vocal dramas pierce the heart, while warming the ear. This sonorific catharsis of art displays the gravity of life to us. We sing when we are happy. We sing when we are sad. Song spurs are memory to recall with honey sweetness and brandy strength; as brandy is distilled wine and song is, also, a distilled spirit.
This song, accurate in its facts, acts as a chronicle. It tells, to us, a full story in miniature.
I knew a very wise man that believed that if a man were permitted to make all the ballads, he need not care who should make the laws of a nation. -- Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun 1704