I’m feeling a little sad today. If you’re a Canadian over the age of 35, you’ll probably understand why. If you’re not, well let me explain.
Last night, an iconic Canadian band bid the country farewell in a live concert in their hometown of Kingston, Ontario. The show was broadcast across the nation and played on screens big and small from St.John’s to Victoria. They even had a special screening down in Rio for the Olympic athletes. In a way that is usually reserved for gold medal hockey games, the country stood still for a few hours and came together to celebrate something uniquely Canadian – The Tragically Hip.
The Hip, as they are often lovingly called, consisting of members lead singer Gord Downie, guitarist Paul Langlois, guitarist Rob Baker, bassist Gord Sinclair, and drummer Johnny Fay have been rocking their way into the hearts of Canadians since 1984. They’ve released 14 studio albums, two live albums, 1 EP, and 54 singles. Nine of their albums have reached No. 1 in Canada. They have received numerous Canadian Music awards, including 14 Juno Awards. Remarkably, despite being superstars here at home, they never achieved the same fame internationally, but maybe that’s okay. Maybe that’s one of the things that make them so special to Canadians. They are truly ours and we didn’t have to share them with anyone else.
With a new album just released, you would think it would be a strange time for a farewell tour, but the reason is significant and, dare I say it, tragic. Gord Downie has cancer – a terminal brain tumor – and is dying. Cancer sucks, what can you do? Instead of packing it in, The Hip packed the trucks and the bluesy-rock band whose lyrics often portray long-forgotten moments from Canada’s history or familiar scenes of Canadian life, hit the road for one last tour.
At times triumphant, others raw and emotional, Gord Downie and the band cranked out almost three hours of classic Canadian rock, songs that have been a huge part of the soundtrack of my life. I know I’m not the only one. As I sat dazzled in front of the TV often snivelling quietly (so as not to alarm my son who just wouldn’t understand) I saw others in the crowd, men and women alike, that were just as teary as I was and I wondered at the courage it must take to get up on that stage over and over again across the country singing songs for possibly the last time.
As he belted out the final encore, Ahead by a Century, I couldn’t imagine what was going through Downie’s mind. Sorrow? Fury? Gratitude? All of the above? While I will never know, I hope that he was also thinking about how the entire country was bidding him a fond farewell and thanking him for being a part of their lives.
I found this article (What the World Can Learn From Canada)after I had already posted. It says it better than I did.