Every year on Nov. 10, one of the most famous American shipwrecks is recalled: the crash of Edmund Fitzgerald. It went down in 1975 when a storm rolled into Lake Superior, stirring up 25-foot-high waves and 80 mile-an-hour winds. The ship and crew, 29 men in all, sank beneath the waters.
It’s remembered in part thanks to the evocative song “The Wreck of Edmund Fitzgerald,” by singer Gordon Lightfoot. Lightfoot once said it was his most important work.
Last month, though, 35 years after penning the tune, Lightfoot announced he would be changing the lyrics. Before performing the song at the Michigan theater, he told AnnArbor.com he tweaked a section he had taken poetic license with and altered it to honor the mother and the daughter of two of the deckhands who went down with the ship. The women, he said, “have always cringed every time they’ve heard the line. ... And they know about it and they’re very happy about it.”
The offending line went from “At 7 p.m. a main hatchway caved in, he said, ‘Fellas, it’s been good to know ya’” to “At 7 p.m., it grew dark, it was then he said, ‘Fellas it’s been good to know ya.””
The men would have been responsible for the hatchway and he did not want it to sound as if they had been to blame for the disaster.
Here’s a tribute video of the song. Although it has the original lyrics intact, it does have footage of the original Edmund Fitzgerald, well as radio transmissions made the night of the rescue effort: