Well, where to start? 2016 is continuing to be cruel to the music world. Nobody wants to wake up to the news that one of a whole country’s most beloved poets, historians and musicians is fighting a tough battle with terminal cancer. I say historian, because The Tragically Hip‘s frontman Gord Downie has really taught us Canadians a lot about our country and its history through song.
I mean, it was just weeks ago that my girlfriend asked me what a “fifty mission cap” is, and I explained the story of the song to her.
The story, of course, is about Bill Barilko… And it’s how many Canadians were introduced to his story. Instead of explaining it myself, I’ll just let the hockey card mentioned in the song tell the story:
It’s far from the only example of Hip songs teaching us things. In fact, Huffington Post compiled a collection of songs that did just that.
Growing up in Canada, it’s hard not to be exposed to The Hip’s music. When I think of being at a cottage anywhere, I always think of The Hip’s music in the background. As a kid plucking away on a guitar, I remember being so proud when I picked out how to play one of their songs without even looking it up. It was Little Bones, and I could only pick out the intro… But I was a young kid with a guitar, and I was pretty stoked.
One of the best weekends I’ve ever had involved seeing The Hip play at Big Music Fest in Wiarton in 2009. I have such fond memories of that night, and that whole weekend. A road trip with work friends, a party with some locals, and a fantastic day of music starting with Peterborough’s own The Spades, then featuring The Arkells, Sam Roberts Band, and finishing up with an incredible performance from The Tragically Hip.
Though I’d listened to concert recordings of The Hip, and seen a few live videos, I do believe that was my first time ever actually getting to see them perform live, and all throughout the set, I was in awe of Downie’s prowess as a front man. He doesn’t just stand up there and sing into a microphone, he puts on a show within the show… And he seems to effortlessly connect with the audience all throughout as well. Here’s a video from that night in Wiarton:
Another (completely unrelated) thing that made that day special was bumping into a random stranger while walking through the crowd who yelled “HAMBONE!” at me. To most people that would mean nothing, but I picked up immediately on it and yelled “HAMBONE!” back at him and went for a high-5. In case you’re wondering, this is what it’s about (around 50 seconds):
Anyway, it was an incredible experience that left me with a Hip Hangover that lasted for weeks.
Through his writing, his live performances, interviews (you’ll find a great one in Matt Diamond’s blog) and his cameos in films, he gives off the vibe of a person very wise beyond his years.
One particular scene that has stuck with me since I first saw it was his cameo in One Week.
In the very small comments section on that video, there is a piece of gold that was added today. I would love to share with you.
“This is the quintessence of Gord Downie to Canadians – the wild-eyed sage of wisdom for a country of searchers.” – Peter Byker
I don’t think I can find a better possible way to describe what he means to us as a whole.
I saw that film, One Week, at a point in my life where it left a huge impression on me, and I was all set to set off westward on a motorcycle in search of answers. To what, I still don’t know. I had no motorcycle, and no money at the time, so it hasn’t happened yet… But to be able to sort of experience another person’s journey – be it a scripted film or be it real – was an incredibly moving and emotional experience for me. I can only hope and dream that if I ever do get that opportunity, I’ll meet someone like Gord along the way who will share even the smallest tidbit wisdom with me.
I don’t know about you folks, but I’m going to do my damnedest to get my hands on a ticket for the final Tragically Hip tour this summer.
Oh, and just a little extra thing that I always thought was pretty cool… Here’s a clip of The Hip playing a cover of Rush‘s Limelight, taken from Rush’s 1994 Juno Hall of Fame induction ceremony (that’s why Kim Mitchell, Joe Carter and Paul Molitor are in there):