Welcome to another chapter of life and death at broadband speed.

Gordon Lightfoot is alive. But for a few hours yesterday, false reports of his death swept across North America, riding a wave of tweets and updates and, eventually, media reports.

Which suggests two lessons.

One is that, in an age of instant communication of facts, rumours and flat-out untruths, healthy skepticism is more necessary than ever. Hoax, misunderstanding, incompetence however the false story started it quickly took on a life of its own.

The much more important lesson comes from the reaction to the supposed death of one of Canada’s greatest singer-songwriters. People were saddened, shocked and seized with a genuine sense of loss. There was, briefly, a great sense of appreciation for Lightfoot’s extraordinary 50-year career in music. Critics and obituary writers were preparing to laud his life and contribution.

It has been an amazing contribution. Lightfoot’s songs have been recorded by Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Barbra Streisand and scores of others. His distinctly Canadian voice and viewpoint consider songs such as Alberta Bound, Canadian Railroad Trilogy, Early Morning Rain and The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald won converts around the world.

Lightfoot took the news of his death well. “All of a sudden my music is on the air everywhere,” he noted.