After Sundown, There is Moonshine —
Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Lightfoot's #1 Sundown

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Written by Eric J. Greenberg. Performed by Dan Korb on lead guitar, Eric Greenberg vocals and rhythm guitar

By Eric J. Greenberg

In March,1974, Gordon Lightfoot's new song "Sundown" was released as a single by Reprise Records.

By June, both the single and the album of the same name had soared to #1 on America's music charts — even surpassing "Band on the Run" by former Beatle Paul McCartney (much to Lightfoot's delight.)

March 2024 marks the 50th anniversary of Lightfoot's remarkable collection of songs, and his only #1 record and album in the United States.

Like many Lightfoot fans, the album had a profound effect on me. It was a key piece in the soundtrack of my summer, as I began transitioning from high school to college. The "Sundown" vinyl, featuring such stellar tunes as top ten hit "Carefree Highway", "High and Dry", "Seven Island Suite" and "The Watchman's Gone", spent countless hours spinning around under the needle of my cheap blue and white plastic home turntable.

In August, when I traveled to college "Up in Buffalo" (more on this later) the album was part of my nightly bedtime routine. My freshman college girlfriend Maggie was, shall we say, persuaded to listen to it with me religiously. We even found "our song" among the tracks — the jaunty tune called "The List."

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But it was the title track, offering a funky groove melded to some dark and menacing lyrics, that grabbed the attention of the press and fans.

What had prompted Lightfoot to write such intimidating lines as "Sundown you better take care, if I find you've been creeping round my backstairs?"

Who was the woman who "looked like a queen in a sailor's dream," but didn't always say what she meant?

Where is that room where you "do what you don't confess?"

Clearly alcohol had a lot to do with the singer's demeanor. "Sometimes I think it's a shame, When I get feeling better, when I'm feeling no pain."

Lightfoot admittedly was not in a great place in his relationship with then- girlfriend Cathy Smith when he composed the tune.

In a 1975 interview, he explained the paranoia he felt while writing the lyrics. "All it is, is a thought about a situation where someone is wondering what his loved one is doing at the moment," Lightfoot said, according to Far Out magazine. "He doesn't quite know where she is. He's not ready to give up on her, either, and that's about all I got to say about that."

Over the years Lightfoot added more details, and in a 2008 interview he revealed the song was written while Smith was at a bar with his friends.

"I was hoping that no one else would get their hands on her, because she was pretty good-looking," he said. "That's how I wrote the song 'Sundown'. And as a matter of fact, it was written just around sundown, just as the sun was setting, behind the farm I had rented to use as a place to write the album."

It was instantly clear the song was going to be the first single off the album.

"As soon as it was finished, everyone knew it was going to be a hit," producer Lenny Waronker said according to Nicholas Jennings' biography, Lightfoot. "Gordon knew it too. The song was incredibly cool. It was dark, with some real tension in it."

In addition, the song was recorded in only 45 minutes, Waronker explained. "The way Gordon played it on his 12 string was so powerful, it just filled up the room."

Sundown also holds a special place in my heart because during my first interview with Lightfoot for Buffalo's morning newspaper, The Courier- Express, we talked about his song "Carefree Highway" and the woman he referenced in it, Ann. "Her name was Ann and I'll be dammed if I recall her face." I asked him about that, thinking of the special girl in my childhood by the same name, whose face I could never forget.

I felt like we bonded over that, and sure enough, Gord invited me to his concert at Buffalo's Kleinhans Music Hall a few weeks later, and then out for drinks after the show. The rest was history.

Sundown not only became an international hit, but Lightfoot was nominated for a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance (Stevie Wonder won for Fulfillingness' First Finale)

Several years ago, I was fortunate to co-write a song with Lightfoot called "Up in Buffalo."

And now, 50 years after Sundown's release, I am honored to pay tribute to my late friend with my new song "Moonshine." As listeners will hear, sometimes there can be a happy ending. Even if it's in a song.


Words and music by Eric J. Greenberg (c) 2023

I can't see her there,
she has come and gone,
And I guess I'll have to carry on.

Help me find her if you can.
Or else I'll be a broken man.

It's been 40 years,
Since I've seen her smile
She's still looking good,
She's still got that style.

Help me find her if you can.
Don't want to be a broken man

I remember every move like its yesterday.
Driving down the road,
A Carefree Highway

There's a picture of it all
Where we used to play
Flying in the sky,
Sailing on the bay

I can see her now,
With the same old smile.
It's a satin dress,
With a different style

She's been lying back,
In her new blue jeans
I feel so content,
She looks so serene.

When darkness is your only friend.
You helped me find her in the end.


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