Much like everyone else in Canada, I’ve recently heard the tragic news about Gord Downie. Now, I can’t stop tearing up every time I hear a Hip song on the radio. What is happening? I’ve been listening to this band ever since I was a kid, and it’s always just been expected background music for me. You all know what I mean. Try going to a hockey game without hearing a Hip song. Try going to a house party without hearing a Hip song. Try going camping, cottaging, bonfiring, jamming, road-tripping, beach-hanging, curling, beer-drinking, or even donut-busting without hearing a Hip song. You don’t even know it’s playing in the background, but there you are, singing along, tapping your fingertips and toes as you go about your typical Canadian life.
So if I don’t even notice it playing in the background, why am I suddenly so sad every time I hear a Hip song? The first time I heard the news - Gord has terminal cancer - I thought, well that is just an awful thing for anyone to have happen to them. And then I started thinking, as far as famous Canadian singers/musicians go, he is one heck of a guy. I mean, I’ve only ever heard nice things about Gord and the Hip my whole life. That in itself is so Canadian.
And then there are all the Canadian things I’ve learned from listening to the Hip over the years. Sports things, like who Bill Barilko is, and that the Leafs have sucked since 1967 (Woah woah woah,Toronto…I’m not anti-Leafs, I’ve just chosen to love the Blue Jays as it’s so much less painful). I’ve also learned Geography, such as where the 100th meridian is, and that there are places not too far from me called Bobcaygeon (side note: I drove all the way out there to see what it’s all about. Nice little town, not much to see, but it’s true, the clear night sky is beautiful in the Kawarthas). Gord has even taught me about Canadian history, like the jail breakout at Millhaven in the seventies.
With a brain packed full of so much subliminal Canadian trivia, how could I not shed a little tear every time I hear that distinct voice on the radio? It took me thirty plus years of existence and one piece of tragic news to understand that Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip are very much a part of my Canadian upbringing. That tear I shed each time a Hip song is played is merely my subconscious bringing forth some teenage memory, such as a warm summer campfire singalong, where someone calls out “what’s next?”, and the obvious response is “Wheat Kings!” Then someone else starts strumming and the circle starts singing along and everybody just seems to know all the words. Remember those nights?
Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip are probably the most Canadian band there is (sorry Neil Young, you’re as solo as Han), so it’s no wonder that I get a little choked up when I think that a man who has done so much for Canada because he loves being Canadian has had the worst thing happen to him. And you know what? I’m not embarrassed by it. Because I. AM. Canadian, and this is my proof that The Tragically Hip IS Canada.
Thank you Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip for your music, your patriotism, for being nice and well, for just being your hockey jersey-wearing selves.