Macleans ponders the idea of Gord Downie’s lyrics being taught in school. Makes sense to me, really. Many Hip songs tell stories of Canadian history, political events, social issues and more. Gord’s words might inspire a whole new generation of poets.
“A nation is a collection of stories about who we are,” says Teal Hranka, of the North American studies department at Wilfrid Laurier University. We look to pop culture as much as anything else to tell us who we are: music, film, books, visual media that are accessible to a huge number of people.This is what is examined in many Canadian studies curricula, where the likes of Margaret Atwood, Al Purdy, Emily Carr and Joy Kogawa drive discussion. Even before the events of last summer culminated in a cultural moment, the Tragically Hip became the first rock band to be consistently part of that conversation.
The reasons why are obvious: They were a massively beloved Canadian band whose most popular work explicitly exploited—and examined, often critically—this country’s mythology. They’re one of the very few artists of that stature whose success was confined largely within our borders, making them even more identifiably Canadian than our international exports. And, in front man Gord Downie, the Hip had a lyricist whose work is as revered by poets and academics as it is by the fans who turned out by the thousands to hear it performed. “Your finger starts to wiggle,” he once sang, “and landscapes emerge.”
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