Ok, it’s been a while. But I’m coming back. And it’s all new.
Just when you thought I wouldn’t. I’m going to. Today is about the Hip.
For those of you who have lived under a rock since the 90’s, the Hip refers to The Tragically Hip, a band born and bred in Kingston, who have, in our eyes, made it big… at least in Canada.
Truth be told, I’m not a huge Hip fan. I mean they have a handful of songs that I thoroughly enjoy and some that bring back some great memories, but I’m not a die-hard-Oatway kind of fan. When I went away to college and people heard I was from Kingston, their first response was “Oh my god, like the Tragically Hip” and I cringed every time.
Wether or not you like his voice, Gord Downie is a poet. His lyrics are beautiful. They are inspiring, open to interpretation, and leave a mark on you. Rob Baker is an incredible guitarist. Paul, Gord, Johnny and Davis all bring a unique presence to the stage/album/band that cannot be duplicated.
I have worked in downtown Kingston, I have met a couple of these guys just out and about, dropping off photos, having a deli breakfast. They are good people. Genuine nice guys. If you didn’t recognize them, you would never know they are “famous”. They have 14 studio albums, two live albums, 1 EP, 54 singles. Heck, nine of these alums have gone #1 in Canada and included in their list of Canadian music awards are 14 Juno awards. Yes, I had to Google that.
Heres what today is to me. It’s sad. It’s always sad to know that something is coming to an end. In this case, not just the end of a Canadian music empire. But a mans life. A father, a son, a husband, brother and friend. A man, who like it or not, is loved by thousands of people. Who’s music has both inspired and healed the hearts of its fans for decades.
I remember Sarah and I sitting in her bedroom, listening to Road Apples singing Long Time Running and Fiddlers Green at the tops of our lungs. The Doc in the living room trying to watch his shows (or sleep) probably cursing us. Bonfires/Field parties with Oatway, Leeman and “the boys” all HUGE Hip fans, the guitars come out and so do the songs… bonding moments of my youth. Solidifying that I am so glad I got to grow up with those guys. In the country, where we just hung out, under age drank, and sang together.
Cancer is a terrible disease. It has stolen so many people I love, before I was ready to let them go. Sometimes they get to be themselves when they go, sometimes it makes them into people who at 19 inspired everyone around them to love and be happy and kind. Sometimes, it steals their brains, takes over their bodies and twists them into people no one can recognize anymore. Fuck you Cancer. We will find a way to beat you, with the help of people like Gord, who chose to take their public life, shine light on the dark parts and raise huge amounts of money for care and research. Not to save themselves, but to save those who come after them.
Tonight I will be watching the “final” concert, playing in their hometown. With some of those same people who made me have a small soft spot for the band in the first place. In a cul-de-sac, projected onto a bed sheet. To me, this is the perfect way. How much more Canadian could it get?
Tonight is not just celebrating the Hip, it’s about being Canadian. It’s about Canadian music, how maybe we don’t always make it big around the world, but that’s ok. It’s about how we connect, how we live, and how we love. It’s about long-standing friends, and outdoor music, and being together. It’s about music that isn’t electronic and lyrics that mean something different to everyone, and songs that find a place in your playlist regardless if you are a “fan” or not.
This makes me sad, that it’s ending, sad for the fans, sad for Gords family. But so very proud. Proud that I’m from the same hometown as these guys. That I live in a country that people know for their innate goodness. Make fun of me for being polite. That’s ok by me. Where I come from we have an overall sense of community, kindness, and inclusion. Where the majority of a country is going to shut down, turn on their tvs, and gather together to celebrate a group of guys who got to make a living doing what they love, and touching the hearts of a nation with their music.
Hey Hip, tonight is not good-bye, it’s see you later, it’s thank you. We can only repay you with our love and admiration.
“It’s been a long time running
It’s been a long time coming
It’s been a long, long, long time running
It’s well worth the wait…”