On May 27, 1972, Gordon Lightfoot’s “Beautiful” debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart at #96.
“Beautiful” is simply that—a gorgeous love song wrapped in the simplicity of an acoustic arrangement and accented by the lush timbre of Lightfoot’s poetic resonance. This has always been a personal favorite.
Gordon Meredith Lightfoot, Jr. was born in Ontario, Canada, in 1938. Valerie Magee writes on Lightfoot’s website: “His parents recognized and encouraged his interest in music; his first appearance at Massey Hall in Toronto … was just before he turned 13, as the winner of a competition for boys with unchanged voices. After a background in barbershop quartets, and as a member of a duo, Lightfoot struck out on his own in the early 60s.”
Lightfoot signed with Albert Grossman, who managed folk performers like Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs and Peter, Paul & Mary. He recorded five albums in the 1960’s before forming his own company and taking control of his career. In 1970, Lightfoot signed with Reprise Records.
“Beautiful” is from Lightfoot’s third album on the Reprise label, Don Quixote, and the single peaked on the US singles chart (after 10 weeks) at #58. In Canada, “Beautiful” would go to #13.
Lightfoot’s first hit with Reprise, “If You Could Read My Mind,” had topped out at #5 on the US singles chart. “Beautiful” was his second song to crack the Top 100 and, in two years, Lightfoot would release three subsequent singles that would each go to #1 (“Sundown” and “Carefree Highway” in 1974, and “Rainy Day People” in 1975).
The singer-songwriter’s distinct poetry and melodies appealed to folk artists and country musicians. Over the years, Lightfoot’s songs have been recorded by Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul & Mary, Johnny Cash, Judy Collins, Elvis Presley, Glen Campbell, Petula Clark, Barbra Streisand—and recently by Sarah McLachlan and Paul Weller.
In 2012, Lightfoot was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.