Hip lives forever in doc
Leave it to Gord Downie to end his music career — if last summer’s Tragically Hip Canadian tour was indeed their swansong — on a high note.
The determined Kingston, Ont., band’s frontman, who went public with his terminal brain cancer diagnosis in the spring of 2016, defied all the odds and pushed his longtime bandmates to hit the road despite his weakened physical and mental state, according to the group’s celebratory and poignant new documentary, Long Time Running (name after a Hip song).
“Don’t tell Gord he can’t do something,” says drummer Johnny Fay, who along with Downie and the rest of the The Hip is interviewed extensively by the filmmakers after their cameras crossed Canada with the group on their Man Machine Poem trek in the summer of 2016.
Hip fans will enjoy not only the behind-the-scenes footage of Downie getting ready for each night’s show on the trek (right down to his underwear) but the entire group’s collective memory of their 30-year personal and professional journey as one of Canada’s most beloved rock bands that started back in high school.
The Hip’s rhythm guitarist Paul Langlois recalls how his best friend Downie wanted him to be there for his post-brain surgery radiation and chemotherapy treatments and the singer says he liked to listen to the Waterboys and the Bee Gees (the latter, he admits, a guilty pleasure).
And the doctor who operated on Downie says the “best case scenario,” for his survival is between four to five years.
This is not to say that Downie, one of the country’s most respected songwriters and live performers, father of four and mentor to many a Canadian musician, may not defy the odds yet again.
At the beginning of his recovery, Downie could barely speak, let alone have any memory of the dense, poetic lyrics he’s written for the Hip so he had to re-learn them with the help of teleprompters both during rehearsal — a video shows the struggle all too well — and on the road.
But, as each show was performed, Downie’s bandmates noticed him getting stronger despite initial fears he might have a seizure on stage.
“Everybody around me did help me get onto my knees and then onto my feet,” says Downie in the movie which culminates in Kingston during that wildly patriotic and emotional final show that was nationally broadcast.
“It was the best I ever felt on stage. I wanted the shows to go on forever.”
Now they can thanks to this documentary.