Today In Pop Music History (11-11-2015)


How does a freighter ship 729 feet long sink…and have no survivors? And how does a six and half minute-long song about the tragedy nearly become a #1 hit about a year later? Some things you can’t explain, like how the Edmund Fitzgerald sank 40 years ago (November 10-11, 1975)…and how this song that went to #2 on the pop chart a year and week later in 1976…

Gordon Lightfoot, who turns 77 in six days, took “The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald” to #2. It was kept out of #1 by “Tonight’s The Night (Gonna Be AlRight)” by Rod Stewart. Starting with the November 27, 1976 “American Top 40” show, Casey Kasem told the eerie story of the freighter’s sinking…and how history was repeating itself. I rank it among the five greatest stories Casey’s ever told….and he told it at least five times on AT40 alone. Here’s the tease for the story told on the 11/8/80 show…
“In 1976, a hit song told the true story of 29 sailors who drowned in a storm on Lake Superior. What it doesn’t tell, is how that Great Lake had already swallowed 17 other ships on that exact same date in history. The whole story is coming up…along with the song as an AT40 extra…”
The payoff story in its entirety…
“Well now, an ‘American Top 40’ extra, a #2 smash of four years ago…called ‘The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald.’ The song in which Gordon Lightfoot told the true story of 29 men who drowned in a storm on Lake Superior the year before. Now, what Gordon’s song didn’t tell…was how on two separate occasions many years before, on that same terrible date in November, Lake Superior had swallowed more than 300 men in 17 different ships. Now why it happened to the Edmund Fitzgerald, nobody knows. 
“Five years ago, on a Sunday afternoon in November, 1975, that huge cargo ship left port at the western tip of Lake Superior with a full load of iron ore…heading for Cleveland. The ship was worth seven million dollars and was longer than two football fields. The crew…all experienced men. And the captain had been sailing the Great Lakes for 44 years. The Edmund Fitzgerald had all the odds in her favor. 
“By next afternoon, she found herself in a fierce November storm. Winds of hurricane force were whipping the waves up to 30-foot crests. Well, it was during the night of November 10th, or the early morning of November 11th, that the Edmund Fitzgerald went down. 
“And that tragedy was history repeating itself. On November 11th fifty years ago (in 1930), a storm on Lake Superior had destroyed five ships and drowned 67 people. On November 11 sixty seven years ago (in 1913), on Lake Superior, a storm had sunk 12 ships and drowned 254 people.  Incredible and tragic coincidences. In the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald five years ago, there were no survivors, so no one knows exactly what happened, or just how it was for those unfortunate men that night…but it was probably pretty much like Gordon Lightfoot tells it…” 


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