Bases Bloated: Grace, too, for Gord

*because this post is about a Canadian band, I’ve used Canadian spelling. Enjoy those u’s.

The Tragically Hip just kind of exist here. They’re reliable. You could count on them for great songs. They make music for cottage country. They make music to play during Jays games. They make tunes for grabbing beers with buds. They are Canadian and a part of our heritage. When it was announced this week that lead singer Gord Downie was diagnosed with terminal cancer, it was like the puck dropped and landed with a loud bang shattering the ice. A world without the lead singer of The Hip is hard to imagine. A word without The Hip is even harder to imagine.

I’ve never seen the Tragically Hip live because I figured they would always be around. I thought I had time. I would see them when I saw them and it would be a great show but it wasn’t a priority. Now, this is my, and many other Canadians’, last shot.

My relationship with the Tragically Hip began around grade six (’93-94) when I started to watch Much Music. At 12, I was already starting to develop a musical preference that extended beyond what my parents played in the house (The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, CCR, Clapton, Santana – typical “we used to be hippies but now we have kids and jobs” music). It was upon many watches of Much that I saw The Tragically Hip’s videos and realized that there was a world of Canadian rock out there and I liked it. There was Moist – yes, this is a real band. There was I Mother Earth – again, this is a real band. There was The Tea Party – just don’t. There was Matthew Good Band – not to be confused with Matthew Goode the actor #ripthegoodwife. There was Our Lady Peace – ok, these guys you definitely know. And there was The Hip. These Canadian bands’ albums were in steady rotation in my walkman and years later, my discman. Even in high school when I discovered Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails and (gulp) Korn, I still found time to keep up with my Canadian buds and their latest releases. I had all the Hip’s albums. Trouble at the Henhouse and Fully Completely were on constant rotation between the gargles made by Korn and the industrial angst Trent Reznor was bringing.Fully Completely

Now that the Tragically Hip announced that they would be touring, probably for the last time, I feel a lump in my throat. The lump isn’t just for the fact that lead singer Gord Downie is suffering from glioblastoma, the same disease that claimed Vice President Joe Biden’s son Beau, it was that a piece of our incredible Canadian culture now has an expiry date.

There are certain things we take for granted here: Even when winter’s not coming, it’s on it’s way; hockey is life; our neighbours to the south don’t “get us” but that’s just fine; Tim Horton’s coffee tastes like shit but we pretend we love it; and The Tragically Hip will always be around to make great tunes. It turns out that the last one doesn’t ring true anymore.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to see The Hip on their tour. I’d like to but they’re not playing anywhere near the Alternate 1985 from Back to the Future 2 where I live. They’re not even playing Montreal, where I’m from. And that’s ok. They don’t have to please me. They’ve already pleased me.

So Gord, I wish Courage and although it may seem like New Orleans is Sinking, you, Paul, Johnny, Rob and Gord S. have brought Canadians from BC to the Maritimes music that represents who we are and what we stand for as a country.  We’ll see you At The Hundredth Meridian, bud.

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