Yesterday Canada got hit with some pretty tragic news: Gord Downie of the band The Tragically Hip has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.
This news has bombarded my Facebook feeds for the last 30+ hours. It’s a big deal to us.
Glenn Milchem of Blue Rodeo posted on his Facebook: “Gord Downie is the people’s poet laureate, the man who built the bridge between high art and hoser culture. He is a tireless supporter of Canadian independent music and someone who never compromised his creative goals for commercial gain, yet achieved unprecedented success in Canada on his own terms and helped create our cultural identity. He’s a trailblazer, one of a kind, a true Canadian hero. The news of his illness is tragic but what he’s given us will last forever.“
My comment to Glenn: “Gord Downie is a lyrical genius. His talent is underappreciated. Tragic.”
My brother first introduced me to The Tragically Hip when I was still in high school. I actually didn’t appreciate them at the time – but I grew and my taste in music has (somewhat) grown.
My brother had asked for one of their CDs for his birthday. I bought it for him and, in turn since, have “borrowed” the CD and never returned it (apparently, borrowing items and not returning them is “my thing”). I’ve since seen them in concert a few times and I’m looking forward to seeing Gord, albeit a sad farewell, on his last train out.
The Hip are more than a band. Yes, they are Canadian icons. But they’re also incredible artists. Gord’s creativity in his writing is magical. Gord tells stories. Not just tales but actual stories. Wheat Kings, one of my favorite songs, with its haunting melody, tells the story of David Milgaard, a young Winnipeg-born hippie wrongly accused of the grisly rape and murder of Sasketchewan nurse Gail Miller. (You can read the complete reference here.
As fans, I think we’re all still reeling from this information. We Canadians take our music, and our celebrities, very seriously (have you seen my million posts on Blue Rodeo?). We often feel a connection to our bands and our actors and our hockey players. And Gord is everyone’s buddy.
If you’ve been fortunate enough to see him in concert you’ll understand. He’s charismatic and he’s intelligent and he’s engaging. His songs are able to reach you in a way that not many others can. He is, indeed, a lyrical genius.
We will now, as a nation, rock on with Gord. We will support him and pray for him and we will cheer him.
When the inevitable happens, we, as a nation, will mourn him and we will mourn the loss of an incredibly talented musician and writer and artist. As we, as a nation, will ache together.
And Gord’s death will be tragically (un)hip.