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Sundown by Gordon Lightfoot

Album: SundownReleased: 1974Charted:
1
33
  • The inspiration for this song came from Lightfoot worrying about his girlfriend, who was out at bars all day while he was at home writing songs. He recalled during a Reddit AMA: "I had this girlfriend one time, and I was at home working, at my desk, working at my songwriting which I had been doing all week since I was on a roll, and my girlfriend was somewhere drinking, drinking somewhere. So I was hoping that no one else would get their hands on her, because she was pretty good lookin'!"

    "As a matter of fact, it was written just around Sundown," he added, "just as the sun was setting, behind the farm I had rented to use as a place to write the album."
  • Lightfoot most likely wrote this about the stormy relationship with his one time girlfriend Cathy Smith, who was later sentenced for delivering a lethal dose of heroin to John Belushi. (thanks, Craig - London, Canada)
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Comments: 40

The lyric "sometimes I think it's a shame when I get feeling better and I'm feeling no pain" may have multiple meanings. While alcohol is the most probable meaning, it can also apply to depression, which often accompanies alcoholism.Jeff - Beverly Hills, Ma
"Sometimes I think it's a sin when, I feel like I'm winnin' when I'm losin' again" I think means that he knows the woman he is with is not good for him and cheating on him but he feels comfort being with her anyway. He feels like he's winning because she is there with him and he feels good, but his is really losing because her love is fleeting. "Sometimes I think it's a shame when I get feeling better when I'm feelin' no pain" means that he is hurting very badly about this woman and he is sad that the only time he feels good is when he is drunk. Trust me on these two, I speak from experience. As to who he is singing about, this is not a whore he visited but someone he cared deeply about.Mike - Milwaukee, Wi
Jeremiah SundownCharlie Leissler - Cherokee, Ia
I was 10 when the song came out and I liked it then as I do now but I really can't figure out what it's really about.Nancy - Baltimore, Md
So many interpretations! This is one of my faves. I haven't figured out the "sundown" reference in my mind, but I'm in love with the lyric "Sometimes I think it's a shame when I get feeling better when I'm feeling no pain" It's kinda sad and deepNomy - Chicago, Il
The room where you do that you don't confess...Hotel room. He is in a relationship with another women, but his ex is a great lay. He doesn't really want to screw up his life or his relationship but, he gets lost in his loving, and she is so into him she creeps around his back stairs. He feels like he's winning but he's losing again because he can't stay away from her, even though he should.

She's a hard loving women, got me feeling mean. If you don't get that, you haven't f--ked the right girl.

The crazy ones make you nuts, but you can't marry em. That's his dilema, he doesn't want the crazy broad, but he does.
Sal - Philadelphia, De
Hey U are ALL WRONG...Gordon had a girlfriend named TRISH... the song was written about her...I met her & I know it for a fact...Rae - Rotterdam, Ny
i always thought it was about a whorehouse. much like House of the Rising SunRyan - Abingdon, Va
Anyone who's seen Gordo in concert knows that he wrote the song at a time in his life when his wife was divorcing him. The song and Lightfoot have always been near the top of my personal list of songs and songwriters. He also has two of my other faves in "If You Could Read My Mind," and "Carefree Highway," the latter written about the highway of the same name north of Phoenix, Arizona that goes to Carefree/Cave Creek, Arizona. A very beautiful spot.Jeff - Bayshore, Ny
This song is about when Gordon Lightfoot had the Good Brothers Band stay at his place in Ontario Canada..He was helping them get started and he caught one of the members having sex with his partner.HE THROUGH THEM ALL OUT AND IT WAS HISTORY FROM THEREDave - Toronto, On
Hey gang, while we're into interpretations, maybe this song was the antithesis to the song about "approaching lavender" (I think that was the title?). He sings, "oh, approaching lavender...." which my mom said she thought was about a gay guy. You know, Sundown is the straight version and the other one is the gay version but they're both basically the same song. Howz that for convoluted?Heather - Los Angeles, Ca
I understand that this song was written in a tiny little hamlet called Sundown located in upstate NYS. There was a summer residence and apparently Lightfoot was a visitor there when he wrote the song. I am sure there is a double, if not multi-meaning to his association with his song "Sundown"Linda - Sundown , Ny
this song is so bad ass! really dark and heavy. I love the guitar solo.Mike - Jacksonville, Fl
Hey all. Just wanted to lend you all a helping hand. Your subjective interpretations are, of course, valid as to your own situation, so I mean no offence when I say that the following is the actual meaning behind this marvelous song:

"Sundown" was the nickname of a close friend of Mr. Lightfoot's who shall remain nameless. Suffice to say, Mr. Lightfoot beganto suspect that his friend was having an affair with his first wife. This occurred at a point when Mr. Lightfoot's marrige was on the rocks to begin with, and also when he was struggling with pretty serious problem with alcohol and the violence that drinking tended to bring out of him. In this context, the meaning of each line of this song should be clear to you all.

Regards,

JDM
Jdm - Los Angeles, Ca, Ca
I was 14 the year this came out and an older boy taught me the art of kissing to this song... I still feel like a naughty little girl when I hear it... because I was sneeking around behind a very strict family to even be kissing a boy... LOL... memories...Mamahill - Rutherfordton, Nc
To me this song represents my time in the navy going over seas(asian countries) and meeting women at "buy me drinky" bars. Where we would fall in love with the women and then have to leave. He uses to references to sailors, "lookin like a queen in a sailors dream" and "I can see her looking fast in her faded jeans". we would call it looking fast when we were looking good, its a navy term. AGAIN im not saying that thats what the song is about but to me thats what it reminds me of, the good ol' days in the navy out in the world.Alex - Pueblo, Co
A great single no matter what it's really about. Is it country? Is it pop?Edwin - Vancouver, Bc
I read through all the comments and most of them make sense. However it's probable that "Sundown" isn't about a single nailed-down topic, but rather a collection of lyrics Gordon put together perhaps on a subconscious level, hence the ambiguity. I think we can say for sure there is reference to infidelity in a relationship as well as to alcohol. Many said it was about a hooker; well possibly, but perhaps just a "loose woman" as someone suggested. My favorite lyrics are "Sometimes, I think it's a sin, when I feel like I'm winning when I'm losing again". Great universal feeling expressed in an ambiguous way.
The two comments that were completely off the mark were the ones about rape and coke.
Adam - Portland, Or
It is very likely to be about a prostitute. I grew up in a town very close to where he was born and raised. In this town is a strip club called the Sundowner, which back in the day was very well none for basically being a whore house. I think it's about the girl that he visits there.Amber - Barrie, On
I believe this is about a man who has had his wife/girlfriend cheat on him with someone he knows she frequents with his permission. (What you don't confess). He is thinking about what is going on when he is not there...while they are meeting behind his back. "You'd better take care"...Watch your back. They know what they do when they are all together..."but you have no clue as to what I would do if you two were meeting behind my back." (My backstairs). "I feel like I'm winning when I am losing again. Very rebellious. "Feeling No Pain" : denial. Total denial. This is a very rivoting song.Amy - Acworth, Ga
Would you believe this song reminds me when I got my first apartment in 2000. It played on a CD while I was moving my stuff into it. :)Fernando - New York, Ny
"feeling no pain" means drunk. I always thought that line just meant sobering up is hell. Especially since Gordon was a heavy drinker for a time.Andre - Montreal Area, Canada
arch, SD, Cal -- If you're looking into Gord's other works, I recommend the album, Summertime Dream. It's more similar to this song, Sundown, than are his early works, like Early Mornin Rain, which I also like, and was covered by just about every major folk-style artist in the late 60's.Fred - Laurel, Md
Brilliant !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Gerry Walsh - Melbourne, Australia
I've always thought the line "sometimes I think it's a shame when I get feeling better when I'm feeling no pain" might have to do with luck. He's saying he thinks it's wrong when you narrowly avoid something bad and you think you're lucky for it but then you think "why do I feel lucky? I have every right to expect that never to happen to me."Dan - Ventura, Ca
I just heard this song today and that was the first time I heard it since the 70s, it brought back some great memories and Im going to buy the album so I can hear is somemore. The lyrics have some depth too, Ill have to see what other songs this guy has since I dont know much about him. I does on the surface seem to be a song about someone cheating with his girl though he knows that the guy cant help himself, but the girl could, so he drinks to numb the pain. But the surface lyrics are hardly the real meanings and sometimes the lyrics are symbolic. Look at the Doors lyrics and they are some deep stuff, for exampleArch Stanton - San Diego, Ca
"When I get feeling better when I'm feelin' no pain" was a reference to Gord's relationship with alcohol- he was a self-confessed alcoholic for a long time (a lot of his songs carried a reference to alcohol- Hangdog Hotel Room, Triangle, Early Morni' Rain, Minstrel of the Dawn, Ordinary Man, and Christian Island, just to name a few)then got sober about 12-15 years ago. Good thing: the physical regimen he used to get his system dry and well kept him healthy enough to survive a burst abdominal aneurysm in 2002, putting him in a coma for several months.Chris - Sacramento, Ca
IN my travels I heard that Gordon Lightfoot wrote this song for Brian Good from The Good Brothers after Gord caught him sneekin' down his backstairs. Could be just a good story but that's what I heard from a "GOOD" source!Steve - Canada
I got the infidelity out of it? Regardless, great sounding song.John - Millersville, Md
I always thought it was about a "loose" woman,
perhaps because I was dating one at the time and I heard the song driving home on the night we broke up!
Dale - Memphis, Tn
Notice you failed to show this song topped the billboard charts at #1. Lightfoots only record so far to do so.Alan - Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada
I have a good friend that is in the Canadian Music business. A couple of years ago he mentioend that "Sundown" was Bruce Cockburn's nickname and it is written about an affair he had with Lightfoot's wife.Colleen - Oakville, Canada
I always assumed also that it was about a cheating lover. It just makes more sense to me, the more that I listen.Angie - Rockmart, Ga
sounds like song about a drag queenWilliam - Norfolk, Va
This song always sounded like a song about rape to me. "I can see her lyin back in a satin dress/in a room where you do what you don't confess" plus the part about you'd better "take care" if creeping down a back stair. Just creeps me out a little.Jena - Bonner Springs, Ks
I think its about a prostitute.Dan - Winthrop, Ma
But on the other hand this could very well be about a cheating lover.Julian - Oakland, Ar
"When I get feeling better when I'm feelin' no pain" has got to be a drug reference.Julian - Oakland, Ar
yep another song about drugs!!!!!!!!!!!

give it a rest
Pete - Nowra, Australia
I always assumed this was about cocaine.Tom - Houston, Tx