The soundtrack of their lives
My brother was in college when he attended the Tragically Hip concert at the Saddledome in Calgary. I asked him if it was a sold out show and he looked at me like I just asked the stupid question in history. “Of course,” he said. “It’s the Hip.” Mea culpa. I’d made the mistake of assuming that only big name international artists, like the Rolling Stones, could sell out the dome, which was (and still is) an NHL hockey arena. I had heard of the Tragically Hip but I didn’t count myself among their legion of fans. I knew next to nothing about them except that their song New Orleans is
Sinking had a pretty catchy guitar lick. My brother’s college days are almost 20 years in the rear view but he is still a diehard Hip fan. I won't call myself a fan but I can't help but feel some loss at the passing of this piece of Canadiana. Plenty of my fellow GenX'ers say the Hip’s music is the soundtracks of their lives. My brother is one of those people. One Hip album brings him back to high school. Another one brings him back to his freshman year in college. Another one was playing in his car stereo during a long weekend road trip with his first real girlfriend. And so on...
So in the springtime, my brother was understandably devastated when the group’s lead singer and chief lyric writer, Gord Downie, was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. The Tragically Hip has spent the summer doing a farewell tour of sorts. They played in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, Victoria, Winnipeg, London, Hamilton, Ottawa, all to end with a live broadcast Saturday evening from the band’s hometown of Kingston.
This week’s Straight Talk question is all about the Tragically Hip. I have to admit that I thought it might be difficult finding six Hip fans here in Glengarry, but it was quite easy. It reinforced what my brother told me nearly two decades ago – that the Tragically Hip are an iconic rock Canadian band. They are not just rockers who mindlessly celebrate the party lifestyle (like Motley Crue) nor are they melancholy poets whose songs make us ponder the nature of humanity but do little to get us out of our seats and on to the dance floor (I’m looking at you, Leonard Cohen.) No, the Tragically Hip was able to blend these two extremes, giving us a musical act that is both as Canadian as maple syrup yet universal enough to make profound observations about how we live our lives.
To wit: There's no simple explanation/for anything important any of us do/ And, yeah, the human tragedy consists in the necessity of living with the consequences under pressure.
I feel bad for all the Hip fans and I guess I feel a little sad that I never got into the Tragically Hip’s music. I'm envious of the camaraderie the extended family of Hip fans felt on Saturday night. I hope my brother had a good time watching the concert.
I think he did. And I think he didn't.