Tonight is a momentous and historic evening for all Canadians, both home and abroad. If you are not yet aware (and really if you don’t know about this by now you must be living under a rock,) this evening marks the career culmination of one of the most revered music groups in modern Canadian History. Tonight we will bid a fond farewell to one of our most treasured musical gems: The Tragically Hip.
While the rest of the world concerns itself with obtaining Olympic medals, this weekend Canada has its own reason to celebrate. In true Canadian style, we will continue to support our athletes in Rio, but for one night we will politely excuse ourselves from The Games to pay tribute to a band that deserves its own medal. Americans have their Superbowl. We Canadians have our Stanley Cup. And apparently our taste in music.
Founded in Kingston, Ontario in 1984, The Tragically Hip (heretofore referred to as “The Hip”) is a band that has worked its way across all of Canada and into the hearts of most Canadians. It has inspired us with its witty and poetical lyrics. Gord Downie’s storytelling paired with the appealing sounds of talented musicians Ron Baker, Gord Sinclair, Johnny Fay and Paul Langlois have created a uniquely Canadian phenomenon. Their sound has become a part of our very culture. Somehow they have won the hearts of a rather reserved and stalwart people. Despite their efforts to cross the border, their popularity has never made it into the US on the same degree. In a way, I am proud of this.
I was first introduced to the band in my early teens, when I started grade 9 at E.L. Crossley. To this day, I am instantly transported back to the summer of 1991 whenever I hear songs from their album “Road Apples.” That year was a formative one for me musically, as I began to explore and develop my own tastes. I have discovered many different bands since then and while my tastes have changed somewhat over the years, The Hip have remained a constant for me. I am not a dedicated fan like some that I know, but am proud to say I know most of their songs. Like the old family cottage, The Hip have always been there in the background, quietly waiting to flood me with memories from my youth upon my return. The urge to see them live was never very strong with me. Somewhere in the recesses of my laid-back mind I think I always thought I’d get around to it. One day I’d see them live. Well it would seem that ship has now sailed, and I am still standing on the dock.
Quite literally. As I write this, I am sitting at the family cottage, located well within cottage country. While this may not be the ideal location to partake in a concert experience, it is for me the perfect one in this case. The Tragically Hip has been a part of many a summer experience for me, and I can honestly think of no better way to celebrate their career than by continuing this tradition. I will be one of the many who did not score tickets, and that is ok. Rather, I will tune into CBC’s live coverage of their final concert in Kingston, and toast the band with a cold Canadian beer from the comfort of the deck as I overlook the lake. To quote Gord’s lyrics from the song Bobcaygeon, I will “watch the constellations reveal themselves, one star at a time.” Somehow I feel this to be an ideal tribute.
So tonight I will join in with my fellow Canadians to celebrate this band that has become a part of us so deeply that we cannot simply let them go. The Hip are more than a part of our culture. They are in our blood and bone, and even though we must bid adieu, we will cherish their music in our very souls.
Farewell Gentlemen, and thanks for the music.