The first time I was exposed to the music of The Tragically Hip, it was while I was attending university. While I liked what I heard over the radio airwaves, for whatever reason, I never liked them enough to buy their music. Yes, it might be blasphemy to say that. And maybe it’s something I might have to rectify.
Certain songs stuck in my head. Blow at High Dough. 38 Years Old. New Orleans is Sinking. Locked in the Trunk of a Car. Grace, Too. Poets.
Their music has been an ubiquitous part of Canada’s tapestry of life. You never think that the musicians responsible for the making that music will someday stop. And if it stops, it’s usually not out of their own volition.
2016 has been a painfully cruel year for losing music idols and heroes. David Bowie, Glenn Frey and Prince are ones that come to mind and the year isn’t over yet. Hip fans are hoping and praying lead singer Gord Downie (who revealed his terminal brain cancer diagnosis back in May on the band’s website) does not add his name to this year’s losses.
Music that speaks to your heart and soul becomes the soundtrack to your life. For a lot of Hip fans, the band has undeniably been part of their personal soundtrack.
Although their music never found a way to become a permanent part of my personal soundtrack, it was still surprising to hear about Downie’s cancer. He and the band are part of Canadiana. It can be easy to forget they are human.
The cancer diagnosis reminded everyone that Downie is human. It reminded everyone of their own mortality. It also reminded everyone that since we all are going to leave this mortal coil one day, we must go out fighting. Or at least go out wearing a feathered top hat while shaking your ass in a shiny suit and pouring your heart out on stage in front of millions of your closest friends. The time to mourn will come soon enough. Party now and kick some ass.
That was one of the messages from the band’s final concert Saturday in Kingston. That was the feeling I got from the show. I wasn’t able to watch the entire concert online because I was working but I did manage to listen to some of it.
Only in Canada can you get close to a third of the country’s population to collectively watch or listen to a Canadian rock band perform what many believe, was their last show. And that’s not including the legions of fans who live outside of the country and tuned in online.
I can’t speak to the band’s music or Downie’s songwriting skills with any level of authority. But I do know how beloved that band is. That love was in full force Saturday night. It was and is inspiring to see people across the country rally behind Downie and show him that everyone, in their own way, will be with him as his life moves towards to its inevitable conclusion.
Yes, it’s sad, but in a way, it’s life-affirming.
We’ll cross that bridge when the time comes. But we are here and now. And that’s all that matters.