I’m not all that familiar with their music, but I do know that they are critically acclaimed and have been popular in Canada for many years. He says he’s going to keep performing as long as he can.
FTR…Gord Downie is the singer in question. Not sure why the OP didn’t mention his name
Gord Downie from The Tragically Hip… I feel compelled to be pedantic about a wordsmith like Downie.
I haven’t seen them live for a long time but I will try my damndest to catch them one last time if/when they pass through this summer.
…and 4:45 late?
Commendable of him to forge onward - trying to think offhand of any other performers who continued playing until their known demise - all I can come up with is a local punk drummer who kept at it until the end. Made for some heavy gigs.
Wilco Johnson, former Dr Feelgood guitarist and occasional Game of Thrones actor, was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and did a final, farewell tour which he was unable to complete.
Then doctors decided it wasn’t terminal, performed some major surgery and Wilco was declared cancer free.
Gordon Downie is one of the most intense front men I can remember; a fucking fantastic showman. Godspeed on your summer tour, Gord!
Warren Zevon kept trucking. Saw his famous David Letterman performance toward the end. I still get choked up when I think about it.
To say Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip are big in Canada is like saying the Pacific’s a bit wet. They are the definitive Canadian rock band - to almost anyone my age, they are ten times more important than Rush.
Of course, they’re a thousand times more important to me, because I am from Kingston. The Tragically Hip were the soundtrack of my university and Army days. Their albums of those days were all gigantic, multi-platinum monster hits spawning innumerable hits, and for good reason; they were amazing. In the early 90s they were one of the best rock bands on the planet, if not the best, and yes, I am saying they were as good as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, REM, U2, or anyone else you care to name. “Road Apples,” “Fully Completely” and “Day for Night” are sublime works of genius and their first LP, “Up to Here,” is close to that great. Their music was everywhere. The list of iconic hits is a mile long - Courage, New Orleans is Sinking, Little Bones, Fifty Mission Cap, At the Hundredth Meridian, 38 Years Old, and on and on and on. I could name ten legitimately Grade A perfect rock songs that weren’t even released as singles - if you can listen to “She Didn’t Know” in your car and not, within 90 seconds, be driving 40 over the limit and screaming the chorus, you have no soul.
To see them live was like being a Star Wars fan and one day you’re just going to the grocery store and the actual Millennium Falcon swoops down out of the sky and Han Solo jumps out and says hello. They were a sensational live band with limitless energy, and Gord Downie was the perfect frontman, a master vocalist singing the best lyrics a writer has ever written for rock music, bar none. (Ever. I am serious about that.) Their shows carried you from rocking it out to singing along to watching in goosebump-inducing awe and back to rocking it out. They were a revelation. It was like watching five guys do an exorcism of all the sadness in you.
After “Day for Night” the output got a little shaky - there is good stuff on the next few albums but the songs became less tight and Downie changed the way he chose to sing them, to the detriment of the music, but there were still some gems and they could still rock the bejeezus out of the old stuff. And that’s fine. You only have so many good songs in you and they wrote - God, maybe fifty legitimately GREAT songs. More you don’t often hear on the radio but must check out; Eldorado, The Wherewithal, Greasy Jungle, Everytime You Go, The Luxury, Cordelia, Thompson Girl, The Bastard…
Downie is the band’s main face and its voice and yet he remains to this day a man of decency, class, and humility. He could buy his own island and live on a pile of cocaine and hookers and he chose to live a quiet life with his family when not touring. He is a man from my hometown, a man quite similar to me, really, who tried to be the best at something and, for a number of years, WAS the best at it, and yet remained sane and decent. I would hope I can be half as good at my life as he has been at his, and that he cannot live it as long as he deserves is an awful shame.
I have many fond memories listening to “Day For Night”. Every track on that album is solid.
I really have no idea why they never “made it” in the US. Sure their rock has Canadian references, but man it was so good.
Same with Big Sugar, another awesome Canadian band.
But I digress, yes totally crappy news. I’ve seen the Hip twice live, once in 95’ and again a couple of years ago. Gord has always been an interesting guy to see perform live. It doesn’t look like they’re coming through my town on this tour. I think my wife and her friend are traveling to Vancouver or Victoria to see them.
Love your post RickJay.
My favourite Hip song! It’s especially badass in the car, where you can turn up the bass and yell your lungs out. I go through periods where this song is on repeat in my car for weeks.
Was making dinner tonight while the family went into the yard to play. Put on some Hip, shed a tear, and had everything ready with dry eyes before anyone came back in. Success. Gonna miss you Gordie baby, you know exactly what I mean.
I don’t know either, but like that other Canadian secret, the Caesar, I’m glad we don’t have to share with anyone. One of those unspoken things you know you share with your fellow Canadians.
My mom and I played an album for a friend when we were living in Rhode Island in the 90’s, and his only comment was that “every song sounds the same.” I think it was Fully Completely.
Another thing about Goes Downie and the Hip: Man could they tell a story with their songs. Whether it was about a grimy city underbelly like in Grace, Too or She Didn’t Know. Or childhood innocence like Fireworks.
I wasn’t ninja’d, I was simply adding to notfrommensa’s correction with the full band name Piling on, as it were.
Hey RickJay, you said that so well, sir. Thanks for taking the time to write it… very nicely put. It’s inspired me to share some of my Hip musings this evening.
I can still remember standing in the old horse barn in the late 80s when I first heard “New Orleans is Sinking”. I bought Up to Here and I was hooked. And though they absolutely rocked it on that album (“She Didn’t Know” included), I think it was “38 Years Old” that opened my ears to what these guys were doing. I mean, it’s a complex story and he chose the reference of “never kissed a girl”. Genius. And the lyrics in “Another Midnight” (…pumpin’ hands and kissin’ all the babies) made me want to hear more of what they had to offer. One thing about these guys, and this album specifically, is they knew how to finish. “Opiated” is the perfect closing to the album’s composition.
Road Apples. This album rocks from the opening note with a strong, almost southern-rock, anthem that’s full of lyrical imagery. As the album progresses they scatter in more crafty rock, blues, and reflections in which Downie’s word-smithing reaches its heights. Generally and enthusiastically speaking, Road Apples is the best album that most of you don’t have in your library.
I went to see them every time they came to Central NC, but began to lose a little interest after Day for Night. I dug some of the Trouble at the Henhouse and even the Phantom Power stuff, but as RickJay said, the music had lost something by then. I don’t hold it against `em. Hell, you can only be fabulous for so long.
That was good!
Logged in for the first time in years to thank RickJay for summing things up.
I can’t speak for the rest of my fellow Americans, but they’ve always seemed to enjoy a good following in Vermont. Heck, Pure Pop in Burlington used to carry tapes from their live shows. I’ve digitized a few, and one from the Horseshoe Tavern in 1988 still gets heavy play.
Though I haven’t seen them as many times as I’d like, I’ve been fortunate to make a number of shows over the years. I went to a few in San Francisco with my college roommate, who was from Toronto - we were pretty sure we were only matched up by student services because we both listed The Hip as our favorite band.
As others have said, their overall sound drifted for me around Phantom Power/Music@Work, but the live shows remained incredible. My wife never quite got my love for them until her first show. I’ve kept buying their new releases, as I feel I owe them at least that much, and while there are a few albums I never touch, I listen to at least a couple of tracks off each of the past few. Though Up To Here and Road Apples are what I tend to crank in the car.
It looks like the final tour is going to be Canada-only, which is unfortunate but understandable. That last night in Kingston should be pretty epic.
Thanks for the good times, Gord.
RickJay summed it up quite nicely. But to get an appreciation of the imagination of Gord Downie, and the tangents he is capable of in the middle of a song, one really needs to listen to the following (rant starts at around the 1:50 mark), sorry, audio only.
Like ellis, first post in years. First John Mann, then Gord. This year sucks for Canadian music.