♫ If You Could Read My Mind ♫

I had a number of songs in my head to play for you tonight, but … turns out I’ve played them all.  So, I happened across one by Gordon Lightfoot that somehow I haven’t yet played, and it happens to be one I like!

Written by Lightfoot and released in 1970, this song was inspired by the breakup of his first marriage.  In the liner notes of his boxed set Songbook, he describes it as “A song about the failure of marriage.”

At the request of his daughter, Ingrid, he performs the lyrics with a slight change now: the line “I’m just trying to understand the feelings that you lack” is altered to “I’m just trying to understand the feelings that we lack.” He has said in an interview that the difficulty with writing songs inspired by personal stories is that there is not always the emotional distance and clarity to make lyrical improvements such as the one his daughter suggested.

In 1987 Lightfoot filed a lawsuit against the composer of Whitney Houston’s hit The Greatest Love of All, Michael Masser, alleging plagiarism of 24 bars of If You Could Read My Mind; the transitional section that begins “I decided long ago never to walk in anyone’s shadow” of the Masser song has the same melody as “I never thought I could feel this way and I got to say that I just don’t get it; I don’t know where we went wrong but the feeling’s gone and I just can’t get it back” of Lightfoot’s song. Lightfoot has stated that he dropped the lawsuit when he felt it was having a negative effect on the singer Houston, as the lawsuit was about the writer and not her. He also said that he didn’t want people thinking that he had stolen his melody from Masser. The case was settled out of court and Masser issued a public apology.

The song reached #1 in both Canada and the U.S., and #30 in the UK.

If You Could Read My Mind
Gordon Lightfoot

If you could read my mind love
What a tale my thoughts could tell
Just like an old time movie
About a ghost from a wishing well
In a castle dark or a fortress strong
With chains upon my feet
You know that ghost is me
And I will never be set free
As long as I’m a ghost you can see

If I could read your mind love
What a tale your thoughts could tell
Just like a paperback novel
The kind the drugstore sells
When you reach the part where the heartaches
Come the hero would be me
Heroes often fail
And you won’t read that book again
Because the ending’s just too hard to take

I walk away like a movie star
Who gets burned in a three way script
Enter number two, a movie queen
To play the scene of bringing all the good things out in me
But for now love lets be real

I never thought I could act this way
And I’ve got to say that I just don’t get it
I don’t know where we went wrong
But the feelings gone and I just can’t get it back

If you could read my mind love
What a tale my thoughts could tell
Just like an old time movie about a ghost from a wishing well
In a castle dark or a fortress strong
With chains upon my feet
The story always ends
And if you read between the lines
You’ll know that I’m just trying to understand
The feeling that you left

I never thought I could feel this way
And I’ve got to say that I just don’t get it
I don’t know where we went wrong
But the feeling’s gone
And I just can’t get it back

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Gordon Lightfoot
If You Could Read My Mind lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc

28 thoughts on “♫ If You Could Read My Mind ♫

  1. Jill, we are huge fans. My old car has a six CD player and Lightfoot’s greatest hits is permanently stationed in CD #5 and has been for twelve years. This is a favorite of many, including us. But, he is truly a troubadour with many great songs to choose from. Thanks, Keith

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This puts American Pie to shame. It is a true paean to Van Gogh. I’m not a fan of most art, I don’t understand most of it. But this song made me love Vincent as a person.
    Meanwhile, turning this to being about me as I usually do, I once wrote a series of poems (basically a novelette) in honour of Samuel R. Delaney’s psychological science fiction novel, Dhalgren, which was as beautiful to me as Van Gogh’s paintings were to McLean. When I tried to get it published, the publisher virtually called me a plagiarist for stealing the characters, and the setting, and then raked me over the coals for giving the book an entirely different reading. He threatened to sue me for everything I had if I tried to publish it elsewhere. I tried, but no one would touch it. Like McLean immotalized Vincent, I was trying to immortalize Samuel’s lead character. How many other people have done that for other writers. It made me stop trying to get other stuff published for a long long time. And I still have not accomplished that feat, except on my own websites. Life can be cruel. (Didn’t I say that somewhere else already today? Ho hum.)

    Liked by 3 people

    • Now I must admit to being thoroughly confused. Van Gogh? Where did Van Gogh come into play in this song? Did I miss something?

      You could always self-publish your poems … many of my readers have self-published novels, collections, poetry, etc. Talk to Roger if you’re interested … he can point you in the right direction. You probably did say it somewhere else today … we seem to say it a lot these days. By the way … how are Gail and the furry babes, and how is your pacemaker doing? No more problems, I hope?

      Liked by 1 person

      • No pacing problems lately. Smoky might have something to say. When he was but a kitten we had to get our elder stateswoman shaved because of hair mats. The vet shaved everything but her head, tail, and her mukluks, front and rear. Dakota was so embarassed she hid for weeks. Smoky watched her slink around, running away from everyone till her coat started to grow back. Thirteen years later, Smoky has stopped washing his coat everyday, and mats were growing like crazy, for every one we cut off, ten more would appear the next day. We had to get him shaved last week, and were hoping he would not remember how Dakota felt.When we brought him home, still in a stupir, he refused to come out of the cat carrier. Next morning we were on tenterhooks. Didn’t the little bastard walk out of his cage, lie down on his back, spread his back legs for everyone to see. He was so proud of himself. Seeing the two different reactions, ten years apart, you know which was female and which is male. Best thing since sliced cheese, according to him. Talk about a flasher. He will probably want to get shaved every week. So, no complaints from Smoky.
        I didn’t have to get Gail shaved,, I would hate to see her bowl headed.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’m glad to hear that! Your story about Smoky made me laugh!!! Reminds me of our Oliver! All boy. I’m glad you didn’t have Gail shaved, too … I think she might have put up a fight over that!

          Like

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