#1025: Daylight Katy by Gordon Lightfoot

Peak Month: July 1978
7 weeks on CFUN chart
Peak Position #11
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ did not chart

Gordon Lightfoot was born in Orillia, Ontario, on November 17, 1938. His parents, Jessica and Gordon Lightfoot Sr., ran a dry cleaning business. His mother noticed young Gordon had some musical talent and the boy soprano first performed in grade four at his elementary school. He sang the Irish lullaby “Too Ra Loo Rah Loo Rah” at a parents’ day. As a member of the St. Paul’s United Church choir in Orillia, Lightfoot gained skill and needed confidence in his vocal abilities under the choir director, Ray Williams. Lightfoot went on to perform at Toronto’s Massey Hall at the age of twelve when he won a competition for boys who were still boy sopranos. During his teen years Gordon Lightfoot learned to play piano, drums and guitar.


In the years that followed Lightfoot performed in coffee houses in Toronto. He got work as a performer on the CBC’s Country Hoedown and went to England to host the BBC TV Country and Western Show in 1963-64. At that time, Lightfoot’s songs were recorded by numerous recording acts. These included “Early Morning Rain” by both the Kingston Trio and Judy Collins, and “Ribbon of Darkness” by Marty Robbins. The attention Lightfoot got as a songwriter landed him a record contract with United Artists in 1965. In 1966 he was commissioned by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) to compose the “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” for a broadcast on New Year’s Day in 1967, the nations centennial.

Over the following years Gordon Lightfoot has recorded many albums. Numbers of these have produced Top 30 singles across Canada, including in Vancouver. But south of the border, Lightfoot’s success with singles was hit and miss. He had a #5 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1971 with “If You Could Read My Mind.” Yet, it would be a three year wait before he returned to the Top 40 in the USA with his #1 hit “Sundown.” This became the first of five out of six single releases to make it onto the American Top 40 on Billboard Magazine. In 1978 he released Endless Wire, his thirteenth studio album. Lightfoot’s luck ran out with the release of his second single from the album, “Daylight Katy.” It would be the first of twelve of thirteen singles to not chart on the Billboard Hot 100, as well as missing the Top 40 on the Canadian RPM singles chart in Canada. Vancouverites were kinder to Gordon Lightfoot with his song about a woman named Katy who didn’t seem to have a nine to five job. On the West Coast the tune peaked at #11.

Daylight Katy by Gordon Lightfoot

She walks by the sea where the sea world is,
and she waits for the man to come.
She lives in town with her high-heeled friends,
and she knows it’s a long way down.
But she doesn’t have to get up in the morning,
with her hair so soft and long.

Daylight Katy come on.
Daylight Katy come on.
If you can’t follow me down,
daylight Katy go home.
Daylight Katy come on.
Daylight Katy come on.
If you can’t follow me down,
daylight Katy go home.

She walks to the sea where the seaweed is,
where the rust and the dirt runs deep.
She lives nine lives in her midnight world,
while her old man’s fast asleep.
And she doesn’t have to get up in the mornin’,
with her hair so soft and long.

Daylight Katy come on.
Daylight Katy come on.
If you can’t follow me down,
daylight Katy go home.
Daylight Katy come on.
Daylight Katy come on.
If you can’t follow me down,
daylight Katy go home.

She lives by the sea when the summer wind comes,
and the sea don’t mind at all.
She talks to the sea when the sea runs wild,
and the waves run steep and tall.
And she doesn’t have to get up in the morning
with her hair so soft and long.

Daylight Katy come on
Daylight Katy come on
If you can’t follow me down
Daylight Katy go home….

Daylight Katy has a constant relationship with the sea, walking by it, walking to it, living by it and talking to the sea. Her “old man” is likely fast asleep, as he has to put bread on the table while she’s enjoying another day sleeping in and taking care of her hair so soft and long. Maybe the postscript is that Daylight Katy became an oceanographer, but I digress. The ethereal portrait of Daylight Katy may have struck a chord for many radio listeners in Vancouver who spent many of their own days by the sea. The song was also his final Top 40 commercial success in Vancouver.

In 1997, Gordon Lightfoot received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, the top  honor a recording artist can receive in the performing arts in Canada.

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