I just finished watching the documentary about Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip on TV this evening. I doubt if any music appreciators in Canada can watch this program and not feel a massive sense of loss. Gord Downie has been such a huge part of our lives for the last 25, 26, 27 years or so. His lyrics, matched with the band’s music, simply laid out the soundtrack of our lives for the last quarter century or so. The band meant so much. The music was excellent. But the lyrics….. the lyrics and their presentation, and the front man who wrote them, coupled with his incredible presence & performance, was really the pinpoint of our focus.
This TV documentary shows Gord Downie saying goodbye to Canada and to all the fans, across Canada, last year. Behind the scene shots and the stories of the performances that were not made public at the time, just go to show how difficult was for him to perform. The man was dying from brain cancer. But still, he managed to perform to thousands of people again and again throughout a tour of the country, culminating with a huge gig in the Hip’s home town of Kingston Ontario, which was broadcast live on TV across the nation. This was a very sad documentary. It was very difficult to watch. We could see the fears and challenges of a dying man who wanted to show the millions of fans who loved the Tragically Hip just how much he appreciated their devotion, while dealing with his own mental degradation, fears, and forgetfulness. After the documentary, there was a series of clips and interviews of Gord and the Tragically Hip, from various times during their career, from the mid 80’s to the 2000’s. Gord was a healthy young man who had an ability to see the world through a different filter, a different set of eyes, than most of us. He could see everyday things and write about them in a way that we could never see in the first place. Look back and listen back to their record catalog for proof.
The Tragically Hip said their goodbye in that tour last year, but Gord wasn’t finished yet. He went on, despite his failing health, to enlighten the public about the plight of the Indigenous People in Canada, by bringing us the story in live performances, pictures, film, and music, of the abuse and neglect of a little child who was taken from his Native family and forcefully placed in a boarding school in the 1960’s. This little boy escaped from the school and tried to find his way home to this family, but died within hours from exposure, in the cold Canadian winter. Gord wanted to highlight the generations of neglect and exploitation of the indigenous people. He did so, in the last few months of his life.
Gord is gone now and most of us are left with a feeling of loss.
But his music will never die. We will always have that. His music will live on and on with every weekend that the average Canadian spends up at the cottage, or down at the lake, or snowmobiling across a field, or relaxing in the back garden at the barbeque. The music of The Hip, and Gord Downie’s lyrics, will always be with us. He is part of Canada.
We will never forget Gord Downie.