I’m Not Sayin’
Release Date: June 6th, 1965
Words by: Elizabeth Izzo
June 6th, 2015
There’s a line in The Catcher in the Rye that reads, “… how do you know what you’re going to do until you do it? The answer is, you don’t. I think I am, but how do I know?” Oddly enough, this is the same sentiment that permeates Gordon Lightfoot’s “I’m Not Sayin’”.
On this track Lightfoot is telling a girl - a girl he hasn't met yet - that he can't promise her anything. He won't promise her anything. Not that he’ll be in love, not that he’ll stay true, not that he’ll even care. It’s "how do I know until I do it,” but it’s also... decidedly un-romantic. He’s going to try, but hey, if you see him with someone else, that’s totally fine. Right? Right. "I won't deny or mistreat you / baby, if you let me have my way." Needless to say, the lyrics don’t translate well post-feminist movement, but if nothing else, the way he performs them is phenomenal. Lightfoot possesses the sort of sincerity that makes folk music so meaningful.
"I'm Not Sayin'" peaked at #12 in Lightfoot’s home country, Canada, but failed to make much impact internationally. This is a trend that would continue for years to come. He would become an immensely popular songwriter, covered by acts like Nico, Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley. His career as a performer, however, is very much a slightly obscure part of folk history. Through all the folk revivals over the years, some musicians have resurfaced over and over - Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Dylan -- while some, for one reason or another, get buried. Unfortunately, Lightfoot is one of those guys. A fantastic musician, but somehow overlooked by the vast majority of new listeners.
His vocals are on point here and "I'm Not Sayin'" has an infectious quality to it. Other songs he has written will, if new audiences give them a chance, inevitably stand the test of time. That being said, though - I’m not sayin' this is where those listeners should start.