Gord Downie died this week. If you’re Canadian or you’ve ever heard of The Tragically Hip, you know what this means. The first thing it means is that Canada is in mourning. And yes, I mean the whole country. I would say the Hip are to Canada what the Stones are to the UK. The Hip is Canada’s band and Gord was their leader.
The news came as a shock to me and I took it hard. The thing is though; we all knew it would happen. It was last year, August 20th to be exact, that we watched their last concert broadcast all over the country from their home town in Kingston. We all knew it was the last concert but I believe we all fantasized that Gord would long out live his diagnosis. Well, I certainly did.
I didn’t always like Rock & Roll, I grew up on Reggae in Jamaica and it took time to acclimatize to Rock when I moved to Canada. When I finally got or understood it, I latched on to the Tragically Hip like they were the last band on earth. Not because I had to but because I fell madly, truly and deeply in love with them. It got so bad that my sister, who only likes Tom Jones, Englebert Humperdinck and the like, actually got me tickets and went to a concert with me. I also went to an all day concert that the Hip put on called Another Roadside Attraction, the only time I’ve ever seen Los Lobos live.
The first time I saw the Hip live was in Ottawa, at what was then known as the Palladium. I had a seat in the stands. I am not certain if I went by myself or who I went with. All I know is that I thought the lead singer for the band was a bit off his rocker. He just looked crazy on stage. I came to realize, that’s just him and yes he might look and could possibly be crazy but somehow it worked for him. I got into it and got up out of my seat and started dancing, I didn’t care if I was blocking people behind me, they should have be dancing too is what I thought. How could one not? The beats are infectious, the lyrics are amazing and then there’s Gord, who is the ice cream on top of the pie, delicious.
I had forgotten about the Hip for a while now, not being a person who listens to a lot of music or the radio for that matter. It wasn’t until we heard the news of Gord’s diagnosis with cancer that they came into my radar again. Then the last concert came about I knew I had to go see it where there was going to be others because I didn’t want to dance alone. And dance I did, from the first song to the last, I just kept dancing. I had forgotten how much I love their music and how much it made me dance. I hadn’t danced like that in a while. Actually, not since I went to support a band with some friends and that was a rare outing. I danced to the old songs. “Gift Shop,” “Bobcaygeon,” “Scared,” “Locked in the Trunk of a car” and “New Orleans is Sinking.” It felt good, I was happy when I left Danforth Music Hall that day on August 20th. I thought about Gord a little bit after that because he was still in the news. I believe I even did a bit of research on him. Then I forgot again because I thought, I haven’t heard anything so all is well and he is going to outlive us all.
Then on Thursday early morning, I took off the silk scarf I use to tie my hair up at night because it was hurting my head. As I took it off I thought of Gord and his getting cancer in his brain. It just crossed my mind, I couldn’t tell you why. I got to work that morning and someone told me he had passed away. I had just thought of him that very morning. It made me sad. It still does.
As Canadians though, we will always have him through his music and legacy. A big part of his legacy includes his final album Secret Path about Charlie Wenjack. And puts a spotlight on the most important issue for Canada, the way aboriginal people have been and are still being treated.
Thank you Gord for everything, love Canada.