2910: The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

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The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
You know that asteroid that almost destroyed Earth in the 90s? Turns out the whole thing was secretly created by Michael Bay, who then PAID Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck to look heroic while blowing it up!
Title text: You know that asteroid that almost destroyed Earth in the 90s? Turns out the whole thing was secretly created by Michael Bay, who then PAID Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck to look heroic while blowing it up!


The comic features Cueball performing a narrative song, which parodies Gordon Lightfoot's song 'The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald'. This song, which was one of the most recognizable and successful of Lightfoot's career, recounts the fate of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, a Great Lakes freighter which famously sank during a storm on Lake Superior, resulting in the deaths of the entire crew.

Cueball's song begins with lyrics based on the original song (though heavily modified), but quickly shifts into a (completely fictional[citation needed]) account of Lightfoot deciding to bribe a mechanic to sabotage the ship, implicitly causing the disaster for the purpose of writing a song about it.

In real life, the cause of the ship sinking remains unknown, but it's speculated that the ship's hull broke up in the rough waters of a storm. Lightfoot, who wasn't involved with the ship at all, [1] devoted considerable time, effort and money to the families of the disaster's victims. In addition, while the parody presents Lightfoot as desperate for a career-making song, he was already internationally famous, with multiple hits, when the wreck occurred.

As a punchline, the verse goes on to claim that a greater maritime disaster, the sinking of the RMS Titanic, was somehow caused by director James Cameron, implying that he did so in order to make a film about it. While the tale of Lightfoot causing the first disaster is theoretically possible (the song came out only a few months after the accident), the second tale clearly is not. The Titanic sank in 1912, 85 years before the film was made, and over 40 years before Cameron was even born.

The title text continues this particular cycle by suggesting that an even bigger potential disaster was orchestrated in space, as the real life basis for yet another film, Armageddon.

All 3 of these are rather unrealistic conspiracy theories.[citation needed]

A YouTuber has turned Randall's text into a song in March 2024.


[Cueball is holding a guitar and singing on a pier. Two pairs of connected eighth notes are on the left and right of Cueball, as well as a detached eighth note on his right. Three seagulls fly in the background on his left. Four pillars of the pier and the water below it are also shown. Throughout the comic, alternate pairs of lines of the song are indented as indicated below.]
The ship was the pride
of the American side
It was due to set
sail for Cleveland
As the big freighters go,
it was bigger than most
With a crew and good
captain well seasoned
[Zoom on Cueball facing to his right, still holding the guitar, without the pier, water, and seagulls. A pair of connected eighth notes to his right, a half note and a detached eighth note to his left.]
But taking a walk on
the shore by the dock
Was a songwriter named
Gordon Lightfoot
He was humming a tune
but it didn't have words
For it's challenging
trying to write good
[Close-up on Cueball's face. A quarter note and a pair of connected eighth notes to his right, a detached eighth note and a quarter note to his left.]
Poor Gordon sought glory
but needed a story
His career in folk
music imperiled
He mulled over this as
he watched them do work
On the hull of the
Edmund Fitzgerald
[Zoom back to second panel. Cueball is now facing to his left. A pair of connected eighth notes to Cueball's right, a separated eighth note and a pair of connected eighth notes to his left.]
Perhaps it was wrong,
what he did for a song
He should never have
bribed that mechanic
But his maritime crimes
are no worse than the time
Young James Cameron
sank the Titanic

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well that was early. youtu.be/miLcaqq2Zpk 11:47, 22 March 2024 (UTC)

This singer is a bit fast and loose with the rhyme-scheme; aAbCd(?D)eC with the "dD", especially, being Go+Most, Tune+Words(!), ¿This/As?+Words and Crimes+Time. And scansion is potentially off (mid-line endings definitely are). I would hope that another shipwreck wouldn't happen until this new guy has tightened up his own art a little. (But once he gets good enough, fair enough!) 12:57, 22 March 2024 (UTC)

"For it's challenging trying to write good" -boB (talk) 14:00, 22 March 2024 (UTC)
"This singer is a bit fast and loose..." This is Gordon and his First Draft. Just strumming to see if the song has legs (fins?). We know Gordon could fiddle the rhyme and line-breaks as good as anybody. But prolly not on a dock on Lake Superior in November. (OTOH Sittin' on The Dock of the Bay, Otis Redding wrote in August on a rented houseboat in Sausalito, California; a much nicer workplace.) --PRR (talk) 23:05, 22 March 2024 (UTC)
Lightfoot was a bit fast and loose with the rhyme scheme; the version of the first verse shown is arguably closer to rhyming than the corresponding verse in the song itself (the rhyme chosen there for "seasoned" is "Wisconsin" rather than "Cleveland"; "Cleveland" does appear as a rhyming word in the song, but it's rhymed with "feelin'"). The worst rhymes here are no more "off" than the worst ones in the canonical song. 19:14, 23 March 2024 (UTC)

Is the Cameron accusation also suggesting that he has actual time travel technology, as shown in his Terminator movies? Barmar (talk) 14:19, 22 March 2024 (UTC)

How long should we wait before using peoples' deaths as entertainment? Relatives and friends of the crew are still alive. Are the terrorist attacks of 2001 open yet for parody? ...or wait another decade or two? Please consider others. 14:26, 22 March 2024 (UTC)

Given that the original song turned it into entertainment less than a year after, and it's been widely parodied pretty much ever since, I think you may, if you'll pardon the phrase, have missed the boat on that one. 14:59, 22 March 2024 (UTC)
Although it was performed as entertainment, the song was written as a kind of memorial or tribute. That's quite different from using the accident as fodder for a joke. Barmar (talk) 18:38, 22 March 2024 (UTC)
It's important to consider sides. Like, deaths of Russian soldiers in Ukraine are open to parody immediately because they are enemies. -- Hkmaly (talk) 18:39, 22 March 2024 (UTC)
Ukraine, itself, has issued postage stamps mocking Russian losses.These Are Not The Comments You Are Looking For (talk) 21:56, 24 March 2024 (UTC)
I have some bad news for you about the prevalence of 9/11 jokes. Within xkcd itself, no less! Esogalt (talk) 09:28, 23 March 2024 (UTC)

What if Cueball bribed Gordon Lightfoot to bribe the mechanic so he could write a song about Lightfoot bribing the mechanic to write a song? AoPS is superior (talk) 00:24, 23 March 2024 (UTC)

Was it rammed by the Cat Stevens? 04:57, 23 March 2024 (UTC)

The flags on the upside down eighth notes are backwards 06:21, 23 March 2024 (UTC)

Must be an inverted chord. 17:22, 25 March 2024 (UTC)

My first reaction was, "this is not funny" because of the seriousness of the Edmund Fitgerald tragedy and the gravity of the song as tribute to the lost lives. My second reaction was that Randall is a really awful songwriter. My conclusion is that the only funny thing about this comic is the comically bad fake song. Rtanenbaum (talk) 11:47, 23 March 2024 (UTC)

I full agree with that. Yet, we can look at it another way: we need to have some "lesser" xkcd comics to better appreciate the "better" ones. Ralfoide (talk) 18:05, 23 March 2024 (UTC)

Concerning the “Too Soon?” discussion, we might consider Les Barker’s “Have You Got Any News of the Iceberg”: https://youtu.be/iKDakrjmwJc?si=v3cdDBP75T5gOc2H

Reminded me of American Pie for some reason when I first read this. Beautiful song that is. bye, bye, miss American pie... DollarStoreBa'al (talk) 15:51, 26 March 2024 (UTC)

Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry. --The Daleks (talk) 19:33, 27 March 2024 (UTC)