Monday, 23 October 2017

No Dress Rehearsal, This Is Our Life - Farewell Gord Downie

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wept openly last Tuesday, while commenting the death of Gord Downie at the age of 53. With the possible exception of Barack Obama, can you imagine any other political leader, past or present, for whom the passing of a rock singer would invoke such a vivid, naked show genuine grief? 'Our buddy Gord' he said, '.....loved this country with everything he had and not just loved it in a nebulous, 'Oh, I love Canada' way. He loved every hidden corner, every story, every aspect of this country that he celebrated his whole life.'

In addition to fronting The Tragically Hip for over 30 years, Gord released 5 solo albums and had long been heavily involved in environmental movements and indigenous affairs. He was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive brain tumour at the end of 2015, made his diagnoses public in in May 2016 and performed an emotional farewell tour of Canada with The Hip through the Summer of that year. In spite of his poor health Downie stayed busy, making a film, co-authoring a graphic novel and recording a final solo LP, 'Introduce Yerself', produced by Broken Social Scene's Kevin Drew, which is scheduled for release next week.

I was very fortunate to see The Tragically Hip several times during the 1990s, in a series of much smaller venues than they would have been used to playing back at home. If you weren't paying attention, you might be forgiven for thinking that they were just another, very good, rock band, but take a closer listen to Downie's lyrics, which often tackle subjects not typically associated with rock music. 'Courage', for example, draws inspiration from Hugh MacLennan's 1959 novel 'The Watch That Ends the Night', 'Three Pistols' looks at the life and mysterious death of the early 20th century artist Tom Thompson and 'Fifty Mission Cap' concerns the 1951 disappearance of Toronto Maple Leafs hockey player Bill Barilko, whose mortal remains lay undiscovered in dense woods for 11 years.

'Ahead by a Century', on the other hand, is a somewhat more straightforward tale of youthful romance and innocence lost.

R.I.P. Gord.


Alyson said...

Hadn't heard of this chap before but did enjoy the clip you shared - Another one taken far too soon and for the Canadian PM to be so moved by his death, he really must have really been moved by his songs.

Walter said...

Very sad news. TTH was a band that made a lot of great rock albums during their career. I saw them once live in the early 90's as well and remember a great concert and their records are still on my turntable from time to time.

Rol said...

Know the na e but very little by them. Clearly need to investigate further given the evidence presented here.

Chris said...

Nice tribute to a beloved artist. He died far too young. Must be heartbreaking for his family, friends and fans. I featured a song from the 2016 Tragically Hip record a while ago. I think he already knew during the making that he only had a short time left, the signs were there in the lyrics. RIP

Rickety Rackety said...

So sad to hear about the loss of such an obviously talented gentleman. I can't believe they passed me by completely. I missed a treat, I fear.

JC said...

Been a long long while since I dropped by....will weave my way through a few months of posts and might even leave a comment or two.

I've spent a fair bit of time in Toronto this past decade, and everyone I know is a fan of The Tragically Hip...personally I don't get it, but that's a personal thing. There's no doubt that Gord Downie's death was a cause for national mourning...and a scheduled ICA over at my place quite soon will, I think, get that sentiment across.

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