Trib­ute to Gord Downie and The Trag­i­cally Hip


When the news hit last month that Gord Downie had passed away, there was a col­lec­tive na­tional gasp, fol­lowed by an ag­o­niz­ing groan. We had known for some time that he was bat­tling ag­gres­sive and in­cur­able brain cancer. Nev­er­the­less, it was a shock to hear the fi­nal­ity of the nar­ra­tive. My brother Stu­art, who lives in New York kept send­ing me text mes­sages say­ing he couldn’t be­lieve that Downie had ac­tu­ally died and was an­gry with the fact that in the US, no­body knew of his pass­ing, and if they did, they didn’t care that much. In Canada we have some great mu­si­cians that have large fol­low­ings, not only in the US, but around the world. Artists like Rush, Leonard Co­hen, Bare­naked Ladies, Ar­cade Fire, etc. are very well known, and loved around the globe. But for some odd rea­son, the Hip never fully pen­e­trated the US or the vast in­ter­na­tional mar­kets as their afore­men­tioned brethren did. I think, how­ever, that that was a large part of the ap­peal to us, their Cana­dian mu­sic fans.

The Hip had fan­tas­tic mu­sic to match their sharp poignant lyrics, awe­some story-telling skills, and stun­ning stage pres­ence. In ad­di­tion to the coolest of band names, was their mag­netic, enig­matic at times, and some­what pos­sessed front man, the great Gord Downie. We the north had the best-kept se­cret in The Trag­i­cally Hip, and frankly, we liked it that way. Last year when the Hip played their fi­nal show to say thank you and good­bye, in their home­town of Kingston, the CBC de­cided to run the con­cert com­mer­cial-free across the coun­try. Our Prime Min­is­ter was at the show, wear­ing a Trag­i­cally Hip t-shirt no less. The en­tire coun­try watched the show as if it was game seven of the Stan­ley Cup fi­nal and our favourite Cana­dian team was play­ing for the cup.

Not sur­pris­ingly, Gord and the Hip loved hockey, deeply cared about abo­rig­i­nal is­sues and weaved great sto­ries into great songs that made us tune in and pay at­ten­tion. They were the archety­pal Cana­dian rock band. They ex­posed us to strange sto­ries about Bill Bar­ilko, put Bob­cay­geon on the col­lec­tive cog­ni­tive map, made us feel what it’s like to be locked in the trunk of a car and in a strange spooky way, kind of fore­shad­owed the 2005 New Or­leans’ flood by six­teen years.

I proudly own ev­ery al­bum they’ve made and though I don’t lis­ten to them on a su­per-reg­u­lar ba­sis, when I do lis­ten, I al­ways think, “I love this band, I love these guys”!

Gord Downie and The Trag­i­cally Hip will be missed, fully, com­pletely.

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