Tuesday, November 15, 2005

What's on the iPod Week of 11-14

Last week was the 30th anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald on Lake Superior. CNN and NPR had reports, with NPR interviewing the author of a new book on the tragedy, The Mighty Fitz.

It would have been impossible not to discuss the Gordon Lightfoot song on the anniversary. The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald makes the incident real, a chronicle of the mysterious sinking that is more factually accurate than most ballads. CNN called it haunting and that too is accurate.

On the heels of a string of Lightfoot hits, the tune was released roughly a year after the incident in 1976. For me, then, it was a catchy hum-along enriched by Lightfoot's distinctive voice, the same voice that had stuck in my head with "Sundown" and "Carefree Highway." Both of those have lyrics that are easily universal, not the least Sundown's "feels like I'm winnin' when I'm losin' again." Who hasn't felt that way at some point?

"Edmund Fitzgerald" takes something less universal and transports us into the experience. It was a while after the tune was on the charts that I realized it was based on a true incident that cost 29 crewmen their lives. I was a kid, and the original report didn't make it into current events hour. When the book The Great Lakes Triangle by Jay Gourley came along, I got the whole account. Touted heavily in radio ads the book was an attempt to link crashes and shipwrecks in the way the Bermuda Triangle had captured everyone's imagination. As I recall the book sought to link Otis Redding's death near Lake Monona to the Great Lakes Triangle as well.

At any rate, over time, I've come to appreciate how much detail "Wreck" includes from the timeline to the suspected distance from safe harbor.

Today, looking back it's impossible not to feel a tear come to the eye as the tune plays in testament to the lost 29, memorialized, again as the lyrics note, with the pealing of a bell in the Maritime Sailor's Cathedral.

A few of those men were in their twenties. Most others were, as the song notes, "well seasoned"-- in their 40s, 50s or 60s, working men who had toiled no doubt many years on ships. They came from hometowns as far away as Florida but most were from towns in Wisconsin or Ohio. I read their names on the anniversary and listened to Gord's gold.

Not long ago on an episode of "House," Hugh Laurie's acerbic doctor charged that it's genetically impossible for human beings to feel true empathy for a distant people, but not so if there's a bridge. That's the power of story whether it is on a page or in a song.

"Wreck" is a classic ballad, recounting a story the way the tunes of the early troubadour’s did.

That's why it's in my playlist this week. For the 29.

Interesting aside
A computer model has duplicated the storm that sunk the Edmud Fitzerald. Noticed that in the Vox Noxi blog.


Stefan J. Scholl, J.D. - Exclusive Buyer Agent said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Stefan J. Scholl, J.D. - Exclusive Buyer Agent said...

The weather here in Northern Michigan this past week has been eerily reminiscent of that thirty years ago when the Edmund Fitzgerald sank. Hoping to avoid the same fate, two Lakers recently took refuge from Lake Michigan's November gales in Little Traverse Bay.
Little Traverse Bay - Harbor of Refuge

Xavier said...

This can't have effect in actual fact, that's exactly what I suppose.
here | 2 | check

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