Too often, when a celebrity falls ill, there’s an outpouring of grief and warm wishes for the suffering. Something about it, though, always seems so ‘tacked on’ or done just because the moment presented itself. Somehow, this time, it’s different.
I was introduced to The Tragically Hip and by proxy, Gord Downie when I was just a little kid. My earliest memory, from a time and place I can’t really describe if only to know that I was there while it happened, is dancing around with my mom while she was cleaning up our house. Bandanna around her head, I want to believe it was The Hip that we were listening to. It’s always been what we’ve listened to. Through our phases as individuals and a family, musically and personally, we’ve always connected to Canada’s Band.
As I transitioned between Fred Penner, Pop, Punk Rock and the rest of my flash-in-the-pan musical interests, I remember always being taken by the Hip’s latest release. I distinctly remember arguing about the validity of Avril Lavigne in the face of my little stereo blaring ‘real music’ – that is, The Hip – when I was on a closing shift at Wendy’s. Likewise, The Hip has somehow always been the soundtrack of heading up north. We played New Orleans is Sinking at my wedding, where I thought we were going to jump right through the floor. At other times in my life, Ahead by a Century has made my eyes misty and sometimes, just the thought of It’s a Good Life If You Don’t Weaken brings me back to a motorcycle trip I’d taken with my wife, lost on the side of the road but similarly fine with it, finding ourselves.
Canadian’s are difficult to define. We’re kind, strong and resilient. We’re quiet, but don’t push us. For me, a lot of the defining characteristics of what it means to be a Canadian can be found in Gord. I’m not just saying that, either. A few years ago I had the opportunity to do exactly what I’d hoped for. When my wife and I were waiting to hear his solo band go through a sound check, we were thrilled to see him and his band mates walk right up the ramp toward us. Once in front of us, I asked for just a moment of his time. Maybe because we were the only ones there, he slowed for a moment.
I don’t remember exactly how I said it.
Something to the effect of “I’ve listened to your words my whole life. Thank you for everything.”
I do, however, remember exactly what he said in return; “Thank you. That just made my day.”
Difficult really, to try to explain how much Gord and his boys have done for me. I guess that’s the power of art. Indirectly, they’ve given me 30 years of awesome music, clever videos and a frontman with real edge, real personality. Directly, they’ve provided feelings. Real, unfiltered feelings that accompany my everyday life.
Thank you, Gord. I really apprecieate everything you’ve done for Canadian culture. We all do.
No dress rehearsal, this is our life.