August 29, 2020

"Cathy was a great lady. Men were drawn to her, and she used to make me jealous. But I don’t have a bad thing to say about her."

Said Gordon Lightfoot, quoted in a NY Post item teased on the front page as "Back-up singer best known for killing John Belushi dead at 73." The more dignified headline at the link is "Cathy Smith, who injected John Belushi with fatal overdose, dies at 73."
Until Belushi’s death, Smith was known in rock music circles for singing back-up for Levon Helm, Rick Danko and Richard Manuel, later founding members of The Band, and in the early 1970s becoming Lightfoot’s girlfriend and muse. Lightfoot wrote the #1 1974 hit “Sundown” about his tumultuous, extramarital and occasionally violent relationship with Smith, the dark lyrics masked by a lilting, bluesy melody: “[I can see her lyin' back in her satin dress/In a room where ya do what ya don't confess/]Sundown you better take care/If I find you been creepin’ ’round my back stairs.”


Smith claimed the Band song "The Weight" was about her.

41 comments:

Laslo Spatula said...

The song "Sundown" creeped me out as a child when it would come on the radio.

I didn't understand the lyrics, just that it made me feel uncomfortable, like something bad was going to happen.

I now realize that's because I didn't understand women yet.

I am Laslo.

Leland said...

I didn't know Belushi died at 73. Isn't "killing [him] dead" a bit redundant? I imagine Belushi might have something bad to say about her.

richlb said...

"Sundown" is a great Gordon Lightfoot song. "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" is a terrible Gordon Lightfoot song.

wild chicken said...

Sundown is my least favorite Lightfoot song, and I was a fan. I could do without the shipwreck song too.

He had lots of others. Summer Side of Life was a great album.

rehajm said...

I was worried it was Kathy Smith, to whom I made love thousands of times in the 80s

Fernandinande said...

The song "Sundown" creeped me out as a child when it would come on the radio.

I can understand that, as I was like "E-yeww" by the Stones' "Down Home Girl"*, but Sundown was made not-creepy for me by the fact that "Sundown" is a horse's name, seemingly one who wears a dress and climbs stairs.

** They didn't write it:
Lord I swear the perfume you wear
Was made out of turnip greens
And every time I kiss you girl
It tastes like pork and beans
...

Rt41Rebel said...

I was listening to Sundown just this week. Oh, and Laslo wins the thread with the first post.

Rt41Rebel said...
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I'm Full of Soup said...

Great video of a great classic song.

selfanalyst said...

WSJ recently did an interesting article in their "Anatomy of a Song" column about this song

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-jealousy-behind-gordon-lightfoots-sundown-11597246075?mod=searchresults&page=1&pos=3

JAORE said...

Read 'em and weep is no longer just a poker term.

Gahrie said...

John Belushi killed John Belushi.

Temujin said...

Lightfoot and The Band were both great. I guess Gordon is still touring. Or he was until Wuhan showed up in North America. He's planning to be out there again in 2021. One of the greats.

"Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" was a great, haunting song. Probably more so for those of us who grew up in Michigan and Wisconsin. The Mariners' Church in Detroit was mentioned in the song, as they tolled the bells for the 29 who died. I remember the Edmund Fitzgerald going down. It was a horrible event at that time. The song is a fitting tribute.

The post was about Cathy Smith. I should probably mention her in my comment. I'm sure she was a nice person, though I never got to know her personally, she inspired some of my favorite musicians. And one great comedian.

Joe Smith said...

I looked up some photos of her, some back-in-the-day and some recent.

She must have had a hell of a personality because there's not much there in the way of classic beauty.

Maybe she had Kamala skills.

The photos of her when she's older are kind of sad. Rode hard...

Joe Smith said...

@Laslo

"I now realize that's because I didn't understand women yet."

That's hilarious.

john said...

Professor, thanks for linking to these songs. Great music for a laid-back Saturday morning.

john said...

For a while I was thinking Patti Smith. That would have been sadder.

Michael said...

Being the inspiration for Sundown and The Weight as well as killing Belushi. How will your obit compare?

rcocean said...

IRC, she was arrested and possibly tried for manslaughter of Belushi. but never convicted of course. SNL back in the 70's had a skit would showed the tombstones of the SNL players, and an old Dan Ackroyd describing their humorous young deaths. i remember seeing it in reruns after Radner and Belushi and being creeped out.

Belushi was a druggie who would've died from one thing or another. Just like Farely. too bad, but you can't stop people from committing slow motion suicide.

RigelDog said...

Even though I'm a criminal prosecutor, I've always had a big problem with charging people with a crime for being a participant in a drug scene where all parties are engaging in knowing and voluntary behavior. It's common for these folks to inject each other, and drugs are simply NOT predictable---you can take a hit one day, and the next day take the exact same hit that you've done innumerable times in the past and still die from an overdose. So you have situations where Cathy injects John, and John injects Cathy, and it's a crap-shoot as to which one may die.

Jeff Brokaw said...

I’ve never liked “Sundown” very much either, for the reasons Laslo mentions. Creepy, unpleasant vibe.

Lightfoot though has a great catalog and his US hits are not even his best, for my money. Cotton Jenny, Early Morning Rain, Alberta Bound, there’s lots of really good stuff that most have folks have never even heard. Listen on headphones, the texture and depth of the layers of music is much more apparent.

Rick Beato on “If You Could Read My Mind” (very recent): https://youtu.be/X33YyowZZxQ

Bay Area Guy said...

I remember when Belushi died. It had a way bigger impact on my teenage psyche than when Elvis died a few years earlier. I loved funny-man Belushi, who made it huge with Animal House & Blues Brothers. He had so many more movies to make.

Kinda bad karma that genius Doug Kenney (writer of Animal House) and John Belushi (star of the movie) died so young at about the same time.

Yancey Ward said...

LOL, I never knew someone other than John Belushi killed John Belushi. My bad.

Can Of Cheese for Hunter said...

sundown you better take care if I find you've been creeping in your underwear.

John henry said...

Lazlo,

You say that you didn't understand women "yet". Are you claiming you do now?

I've been kicking around for a number of years and I think it might be fair to say I understand them less now than I did in my youth.

Although, I probably was ignorant about my lack of understanding back then. I only thought I understood them.

John Henry

Andrew said...

I'm waiting for someone like Carpe Donktum to make a video of Biden's most senile moments set to "Sundown." Cruel but effective. Then Trump can tweet it out.

Yancey Ward said...

"I remember when Belushi died. It had a way bigger impact on my teenage psyche than when Elvis died a few years earlier. I loved funny-man Belushi, who made it huge with Animal House & Blues Brothers. He had so many more movies to make."

We are obviously close to the same age. Animal House and Blues Brothers were must see theater movies for me and my friends. I was 12 when the first one came out, and 14 for the second one. I had to sneak into the first one with my cousin because it was rated R.

Yes, his death was a sad day for me, too. I had just seen Neighbors the weekend before his death.

Iman said...

I still remember sitting in my office and hearing the news about Belushi coming over the radio. Very sad, the guy was so funny and provided many laughs to millions of people. He had been in a bad way for many years, so although sad, it wasn't shocking. Some in that predicament pull out of the tailspin before it kills them... some don't. But it's on THAT person, it's up to them.

Smith was a grimy enabler... but it was Belushi's responsibility.

Yancey Ward said...

I love the song "Sundown". Probably has a lot to do with the 8 track compilation of 1974 hits that my mother played in the car for almost 2 years straight between 1974 and 1976. That 8 track also had "Band on the Run", "The Streak", "Billy Don't Be a Hero", "Midnight at the Oasis" etc. I don't remember all the songs on it right now, but when I hear them, I remember them instantly.

Churchy LaFemme: said...

I always thought "Sundown" was about a hooker.

If I'm going for some epic nautical song, give me The Last Farewell.

Iman said...

Don't want nobody who won't dive for dimes
Don't want no speedballs 'cause he might die tryin'
Throw him a line, throw him a line
'Cause there's a fat man in the Marmont on the floor
Can't hear him moan, can't hear him moan, can see the foam

Professional lady said...

We saw GL in concert twice. Second time was 10 or 15 years ago. It was kind of shocking and sad, because his voice was totally gone. Love those songs - nice to see him in his prime. He and Joni Mitchell spent some of their very early musical career years in Detroit.

Professional lady said...
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PM said...

Used to see Lightfoot at the Troubador in LA. His lead guitarist was a badass, Red Shea, who also backed Ian Tyson - the best folk baritone around, imo.

Narr said...

Not a GL fan; Belushi was a classic self-destructive comic genius.

Narr
Knowledge Is Good

I'm Not Sure said...

"Summer Side of Life was a great album."

Lightfoot fan here, I like all his stuff. If you took his albums, put them all together and said "One of these is not like the others", I would pick out Summer Side of Life.

Yes, it's good.

ken in tx said...

I understand women. I just don't always apply my understanding correctly.

James K said...

I didn't know Belushi died at 73. Isn't "killing [him] dead" a bit redundant? I imagine Belushi might have something bad to say about her.

Heh, I also first read "Gordon Lightfoot, quoted in a NY Post item teased on the front page as 'Back-up singer best known for killing John Belushi dead at 73'" as suggesting Lightfoot killed Belushi (though I knew "back-up singer" wasn't accurate for Lightfoot).

rightguy said...

Smith was worth $46,000,000 when she died. She has to be the most successful groupie ever.

Scott said...

I remember seeing Gordon Lightfoot in concert at St Catherine's auditorium in St. Paul in the early 1970s, when I was in high school. He was late. And he was drunk.

RobinGoodfellow said...

She seems nice