In spite of widespread rumours to the contrary, much-loved and respected Canadian folk music artist Gordon Lightfoot has not passed away. The false death rumour began circulating rapidly around Canada and the rest of the world after claims that the singer had died were posted on social networking website, Twitter in mid February 2010. Mr Lightfoot's concert promoter, Bernie Fiedler, soon set the record straight telling news outlets that the singer was alive and well. And, just hours after the rumour began spreading, the singer himself also contacted media outlets and friends to deny the rumours. Lightfoot was quite surprised to hear about his own death while listening to the radio, but later telephoned a radio station to report that he was very much alive.
The rumour was given unfounded credibility after some mainstream media outlets in Canada were taken in by the hoax and published
news of his death. A February 18 article about the hoax in Toronto's The Globe and Mail notes:
A Canwest news service story reported the death Thursday afternoon and quoted singer Ronnie Hawkins, who reportedly confirmed the rumour. The story was published on several websites, including the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and the Calgary Herald, before it was pulled down.
One report had singer Ronnie Hawkins confirming the death.
According to the National Post, it appears that the rumour began life after some unknown prankster contacted musician Ronnie Hawkins, a close friend of Lightfoot. The prankster, who posed as Gordon Lightfoot's grandson, left a message for Hawkins that claimed that the singer had passed away. Hawkins then told his wife the news, and she in turn passed it on to others:
Fellow musician and close friend Ronnie Hawkins said the hoax began with a prank played on him. Someone pretending to be Lightfoot’s grandson left a message for Hawkins saying the legendary singer had passed away. Hawkins said he then told his wife Wanda, who sent out e-mails to some of their close friends and contacts in the music community, where the false news spread further.
Gordon Lightfoot is not the only celebrity who has been a victim of a death rumour. He joins a long line of other well-known people who have been the target of callous pranksters who have spread false death rumours about them, including Miley Cyrus, Tom Hanks and Will Ferrell.