"If You Could Read My Mind" is a song by Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot. It reached No. 1 on the Canadian Singles Chart on commercial release in 1970 and charted in several other countries on international release in 1971.
Lightfoot has cited his divorce for inspiring the lyrics, saying they came to him as he was sitting in a vacant Toronto house one summer. At the request of his daughter Ingrid, he performs the lyrics with a slight change now: The line "I'm just trying to understand the feelings that you lack" is altered to "I'm just trying to understand the feelings that we lack." He has said in an interview that the difficulty with writing songs inspired by personal stories is that there is not always the emotional distance and clarity to make lyrical improvements such as the one his daughter suggested.
On release, the song reached No. 1 on the Canadian Singles Chart, and was his first recording to appear in the U.S., reaching No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in February 1971. Later in the year, it reached No. 27 on the Australian singles chart and No. 30 on the United Kingdom's singles chart. The song also reached No. 1 for one week on the BillboardEasy Listening chart, and was the first of four Lightfoot releases to reach No. 1.
In 1987, Lightfoot filed a lawsuit against Michael Masser, the composer of Whitney Houston's hit "The Greatest Love of All", alleging plagiarism of 24 bars of "If You Could Read My Mind"; the transitional section that begins "I decided long ago never to walk in anyone's shadow" of the Masser song has the same melody as "I never thought I could act this way and I got to say that I just don't get it; I don't know where we went wrong but the feeling's gone and I just can't get it back" of Lightfoot's song. Lightfoot has stated that he dropped the lawsuit when he felt it was having a negative effect on the singer Houston because the lawsuit was about the writer and not her. He also said that he did not want people to think that he had stolen his melody from Masser. The case was settled out of court, and Masser issued a public apology.
Many artists have covered "If You Could Read My Mind." Among the most notable versions is the 1980 cover by Viola Wills, which peaked at No. 2 for five weeks on the dance/disco charts with a dance version of the song and at number 80 in Australia.Olivia Newton-John covered the song on her debut 1971 album If Not For You. Johnny Cash recorded a version of the song that was included in the posthumously released album American V: A Hundred Highways (2006).