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45 years after Edmund Fitzgerald wreck, a powerful song, these facts still resonate

Test your knowledge on the famous shipwreck with this quiz

The 729-foot ore boat Edmund Fitzgerald, shown in 1972 file photo, apparently sank with all 30-35 hands on board during a storm that kicked up 25-foot waves on Lake Superior late 11/10. There apparently were no survivors according to Coast Guard Petty Officer Bob Wiard.
The 729-foot ore boat Edmund Fitzgerald, shown in 1972 file photo, apparently sank with all 30-35 hands on board during a storm that kicked up 25-foot waves on Lake Superior late 11/10. There apparently were no survivors according to Coast Guard Petty Officer Bob Wiard. (Getty Images)

If you’re driving in your car a lot today, don’t be surprised if you hear more Gordon Lightfoot than usual.

A Canadian songwriter, Lightfoot’s most famous song, arguably, was “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” which was produced after the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald sank in Lake Superior, the largest shipwreck ever to occur on any of the Great Lakes.

Tuesday marks 45 years since the Edmund Fitzgerald, known as the “Titanic of the Great Lakes,” got caught in a nasty November storm on the world’s second-largest body of freshwater by surface area, and sank, killing all 29 crew members on board a ship that was 729 feet long, 35 feet high and had a deadweight capacity of 26,000 long tons.

Months after the tragedy in 1976, Lightfoot’s tribute song to the crew and the ship was released.

To listen on YouTube, click or tap here.

Here are some notable facts about the song, according to Songfacts.

  • The song made it to No. 2 in the United States, being second only to Rod Stewart’s “Tonight’s The Night.”
  • The song was nominated for Song of the Year at the Grammy Awards, but lost to “I Write The Songs” by Barry Manilow.
  • The original recording reflected an investigation that the crew didn’t properly secure the ship’s hatches, so one of the verses was, “At 7 p.m., a main hatchway gave in, he said ‘Fellas, it’s been good to know ya.’” However, decades later, further investigations found that there wasn’t evidence that the crew had any role in the wreck. As a result, Lightfoot has changed the lyrics at live recordings to “At 7 p.m., it grew dark, it was then he said, ‘Fellas, it’s been good to know ya.’”
  • The song said the ship was bound for Cleveland, but it was actually going to Detroit.
  • Lightfoot said the melody of the song comes from an old Irish folk song.
  • In a “Seinfeld” episode, the character Elaine got some names mixed up, calling the ship Gordon Lightfoot and the singer Edmund Fitzgerald. The character Jerry then replied, “Yeah, and it was rammed by the Cat Stevens.”

As for the ship, find out facts about it or test your knowledge in the quiz below.

As a bonus, the answer to one of the questions was already provided above, so know you for sure won’t get a zero on it!


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