If You Could Read My Mind, by Gordon Lightfoot, is one of the most covered songs in popular music history, having been recorded by stars like Barbra Streisand, Olivia Newton-John, Duane Steele, Petula Clark, Kenny Rogers, Gene Clark, Don McLean, Liza Minnelli, Johnny Cash, and - in disco versions - by Viola Wills and Stars On 54.
If You Could Read My Mind is one of his most personal songs, and is about the breakup of his first marriage - a theme he continued to use as late as 1982 (If You Could Read My Mind was written in 1969). He confirms this in the liner notes of his boxed set, Songbook, where he says, "A song about the failure of marriage."
Lightfoot's recording of If You Could Read My Mind was the surprise hit of his first album for Warner Brothers; this caused Warner Brothers to rename the album from Sit Down Young Stranger (one of my favorite songs) to If You Could Read My Mind, to match the hit song. If You Could Read My Mind reached #5 on the Billboard pop charts. The song was used in the soundtrack of the UK TV series Trigger Happy TV, as the theme for the portrait artist, but was not on any of the TV series soundtrack albums.
If You Could Read My Mind remains one of the key highlights of his concert performances, and is delivered with feeling and poignancy night after night.
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If You Could Read My Mind, ©1969 by Gordon Lightfoot If you could read my mind, love, What a tale my thoughts could tell. Just like an old time movie, 'Bout 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 that you can't see. If I could read your mind, love, What a tale your thoughts could tell. Just like a paperback novel, The kind the drugstores sell. Then you reached the part where the heartaches come, The hero would be me. But heroes often fail, And you won't read that book again Because the ending's just too hard to take! I'd 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, let's be real; 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. If you could read my mind, love, What a tale my thoughts could tell. Just like an old time movie, 'Bout a ghost from a wishing well. In a castle dark or a fortress strong. With chains upon my feet. But stories always end, And if you read between the lines, You'd know that I'm just tryin' to understand The feelin's that you lack. 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 feelin's gone And I just can't get it back!
Song: If You Could Read My Mind
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