The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald


The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

This song sticks in your head long after the last note dies away but how many people know that it based upon a real shipping disaster on Lake Superior.  Thirty-three years ago today a perfect storm sunk this vessel  and Gordon Lightfoot, a Candian Pop artist, immortalized the disaster.

Most of us are insulated from nature and tend to forget that Humboldt waters have drowned their share of men and ships so here’s an ode dedicated to the fishermen and sailors that work on these local waters.

The lyrics are below the fold for those of you unable to download the video.


by Gordon Lightfoot

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy.

With a load of iron ore – 26,000 tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty
That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
When the gales of November came early

The ship was the pride of the American side
Coming back from some mill in Wisconson
As the big freighters go it was bigger than most
With a crew and the Captain well seasoned.

Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
When they left fully loaded for Cleveland
And later that night when the ships bell rang
Could it be the North Wind they’d been feeling.

The wind in the wires made a tattletale sound
And a wave broke over the railing
And every man knew, as the Captain did, too,
T’was the witch of November come stealing.

The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
When the gales of November came slashing
When afternoon came it was freezing rain
In the face of a hurricane West Wind

When supper time came the old cook came on deck
Saying fellows it’s too rough to feed ya
At 7PM a main hatchway caved in
He said fellas it’s been good to know ya.

The Captain wired in he had water coming in
And the good ship and crew was in peril
And later that night when his lights went out of sight
Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Does anyone know where the love of God goes
When the words turn the minutes to hours
The searchers all say they’d have made Whitefish Bay
If they’d fifteen more miles behind her.

They might have split up or they might have capsized
They may have broke deep and took water
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters.

Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
In the ruins of her ice water mansion
Old Michigan steams like a young man’s dreams,
The islands and bays are for sportsmen.

And farther below Lake Ontario
Takes in what Lake Erie can send her
And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
With the gales of November remembered.

In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed
In the Maritime Sailors’ Cathedral
The church bell chimed, ’til it rang 29 times
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
Superior, they say, never gives up her dead
When the gales of November come early.



  • “Does anyone know where the love of God goes
    When the waves turn the minutes to hours”

    Waves could be replaced with so many awful things of both natural and human origin.

  • I remember being surprised when I learned that this was a “recent” disaster. I had always thought the song was memorializing a shipwreck from 100 years or so ago.

  • Thanks for posting the video. I haven’t heard that song in a long time and wouldn’t have remembered that today was the anniversary of the wreck.

  • As you may know, I am fascinated by machinery. From the time that I could hold a screw driver, I’ve been working on machines. The bigger the machines, the more fascinated that I am.

    Ships have always had a special place in my heart. They are the epitome of mans collaborative effort. The represent why mankind has to work together to achieve their goals, and boats have been around since the beginning of human intelligence.

    So, why they float, and why they sink, is a testament to man. I remember the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. It was all that was on the news for weeks. The ship and crew were much loved by the people of the Great Lakes, and the whole area took the sinking as a very personal loss.

  • I’ve always loved the haunting melody of that song, as well as the colorful lyrics, and the way Gordon Lightfoot put them together.

    Noticed that one of the Crew had the same last name as your hubby. Any relation?

  • While my musical background and taste falls into the realm of “alternative”, gothic, new wave, punk, etc., one of my fav childhood songs is The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

    My fathers’ side of the family, having come from the Great Lakes area, (and his father and uncle both working the very same ore boats as described in the song), I have long been familiar with the real story behind the boat and its tragic sinking.

    It has always been such a beautiful and poignant song. I’m so glad you posted it.

  • I’m glad I’m not the only one who enjoys this song.

    Heather, He isn’t a relation that I know about but there are a bunch of Kevin’s family that we don’t know.

  • I’ve always enjoyed Gordon Lightfoot. My brother was a huge fan and he had four or five of his 8-tracks we would listen to on our way to Hoopa High in his 68 VW bug.

    “When supper time came the old cook came on deck
    Saying fellows it’s too rough to feed ya
    At 7PM a main hatchway caved in
    He said fellas it’s been good to know ya.”

    My favorite lines…..I don’t know why.

  • Honestly, when I try and break down the lyrics, they seem painfully clunky but when the tone comes on, I can’t help singing along especially those line, Ekovox. Somehow he caught the flavor of how men I know might speak when the worst was happening.

  • I LOVE that song! I grew up on the shores of Lake Superior, which is why I am drawn to the wild and rocky coastlines. We learned the lyrics in 6th grade and I have not yet forgotten them. 🙂

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  • The Wreck of The Edmund Fitgerald just got me the first time I heard it,here in Perth, Australia, many years ago. Its still a fine song and I never tire of hearing it. Thanks to whoever put the lyrics up so the rest of us can understand the story more fully. Another song that still gets me in the same way is Ode to Billy Joe by Bobby Gentry. Regards Gary Clyne

  • I grew up with Gentry’s music. I still love her stuff.

  • For Kym (with photo) I knew there must be someone else somewhere in world who likes Ode to Billy Joe and Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald!

  • When i was a teenager I planned to take my life.Over many weeks i gave some gifts to people and generally said my goodbyes ready for that day.I took my dads .22 rifle and loaded it ready to fire it into my head and i would be gone. American top forty was playing on the radio and it was the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald and it saved my life because it was so beautiful and haunting.I lived another day and then another. over thirty years later i still love that song and listen to it quite often but with a longing and sadness in my heart for the men and for my horrible lonely teen years. By the way i named my son Edmund as a tribute.

  • David what an inspirational story and how brave of you to share it.

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