Here’s a Guy Who Disagrees with Everything That’s Been Said, Written and Felt About the Tragically Hip. You Will Get Mad.

When it comes to negative coverage of the Tragically Hip this summer, there’s been remarkably little. Almost none, in fact. Given Gord Downie’s cancer prognosis and the possibility of the Man Machine Poem tour being their last, it just seems…wrong, you know? Immoral, even.

This brings me to David Solway, who contributed this to PJ Media, an American-based punditry website which, as far as I can tell, enjoys being contrarian. A look at their home page reveals a navigation guide to topics like “Homeland Security,” “Parenting” and “Faith.” This is where Fletcher chanced upon this article and forwarded it to me saying “This may be the worst thing I’ve ever read.” Here’s a taste.

Downie’s condition is terribly sad, and nobody would have wished it upon him. But his caterwauling howls, garishly flamboyant gesticulations, and designer robot outfit were not, in my estimation, fitting or dignified. His performance was, rather, off-putting if not aberrant. How bizarre that a group would announce its lead singer’s impending death—and then go on a (presumably) last tour! How can one relate to their music in a normal way? The phenomenon was not so much a musical event as an orgiastic sobfest in which everyone was invited to share “the pain and the tears and the triumph,” to quote Don Pyle of Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet—a route that David Bowie, for example, did not take. And what would happen if Downie’s cancer, as we all hope for his sake, should by some miracle go into remission? (We are told it is incurable; yet I have a friend whose “incurable” disease was diagnosed five years ago, and she is leading an active and vigorous life.) There is something indiscreet and awkward, almost macabre, about the spectacle—“unprecedented” in a way the CBC did not intend.

[…]

But there is also another explanation: despite all the saccharine hype that surrounds them, they are just not very good, a minor band with no international resonance and an overblown reputation at home. Reference is often made to the band’s “poignant and witty lyrics,” and to their “enigmatic sound,” as in a by now stock puff piece from the music/film site exclaim.ca. I would beg to differ.

Whoa.

There are a couple of ways to look at this. (a) David Solway hasn’t got a clue what he’s talking about; (b) He’s being deliberately provocative; or (c) he’s saying what many have been afraid to say.

As I write this, the story has generated at least 200 comments, most of which seem to revolve around the statements about Justin Trudeau. But there are others that berate him for his Hip talk. They include:

  • “You ever lived in Canada? Talk about something you know nothing about. Oh, you already are.”
  • “Canadian music from a different era. Less self effusive praise, much deeper talent. Sadly, that can be said for most of the western world.”
  • “I usually enjoy your articles but find this critique to be crass and doubt you’ve ever gone to a single one of their shows. We live just across the border in WA and there were always very enthusiastic Canadian fans at any performances we attended. And you know what, it was always an upbeat, memorable experience.:

But then the comments devolve into comments about Canada’s irrelevance, our “fake” friendliness, our mediocrity as a people and our unwillingness to defend ourselves.

Read the entire article here. Please feel free to comment, but try not to rise to the bait, okay? The best way to fight back is with reasoned, intelligent commentary.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

36 thoughts on “Here’s a Guy Who Disagrees with Everything That’s Been Said, Written and Felt About the Tragically Hip. You Will Get Mad.

  • September 4, 2016 at 10:22 am
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    It is one thing to be contrarian…it’s another to whitewash the situation with insinuations of us loving a mediocre band. That is a beauty is in the eye of the beholder type of stance…except he doesn’t allow for the fans to see the beauty. He’s just being…well…mean…and a bit of a dick.

    Sometimes you don’t like a certain band or even genre. But at least I can try to understand why people like country for example. I hate it but I can see why people love it. It’s a respect issue with this guy. He has none and for that he gets the big asshat award….Asshat…

    Reply
    • September 4, 2016 at 11:58 pm
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      Well said Jeff. I’ll leave it at that.

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    • September 5, 2016 at 9:44 am
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      Off the Hip, I think being a journalist will always try to make a name for yourself. Wrong topic to write of and a very poor perspective on a man and band that resembles Canada.
      Many of us are not experienced in saying goodbye to a friend or family member. Morning is the most real of emitions. He helped all of us deal with his situation which we may well be able to use as a device to deal with our own future sitiations, possibly ourselves, or ones around us.
      You lack the spirit of a Canadian. What Canada is all about, and offend me to the degree of a terrorist to our country.
      Life is “sink or swim”. I will supply you with the conceete block when you so decide.
      Some things are ment to be left alone. You just did something sinister by writing garbage. Unemployable is your future I prey. Anyone that would pay for defacing Canada is as liable as you are.
      Even Hell will reject you now.
      Randy Murrell

      Reply
      • September 6, 2016 at 8:08 am
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        I apologize for my spelling errors. Due only to my anger at the moment of reading such rag.
        But the jest is there and your name is dead.
        No one. And I mean no one will kick a man down in my life.
        You obviously don’t understand what it is to travel outside a city center or not experienced enough Canadian patriotism for what we have. You sold yourself out.
        Go jump in a non-Canadian lake.

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  • September 4, 2016 at 10:33 am
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    Venturing into the comments section of that site would be like self harming so I’m going to pass. That said, there will always be people who like to disturb shit on the internet. It’s honestly not worth expending the energy on most of them. (I would also contend he is operating on a false premise that Bowie would not have done the same if able but he had been struggling for some time and instead devoted his passions towards what he was able to achieve with his last album and the final handful of music videos.)

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  • September 4, 2016 at 11:02 am
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    A lot of Americans just don’t “get” The Hip. They are such a Canadian band, such a part of our culture, that it doesn’t make any sense to them. Not all are like that, of course. So many Canadian groups have always done so well in Texas. I wonder if the Hip ever played there? I still remember when they appeared on SNL and the cynics in the States were saying they were a bad imitation of REM. Absolute crap, but of any American band I can think of, REM would probably be the closest.

    I know a lot of people who aren’t Hip fans. They are another “love them or you don’t” type of band. Downie isn’t the world’s greatest singer by any means, but his presence and songwriting made them what they were, which was very unique. At times, when their music reached its many peaks, the results could be beautiful, enlightening and transcendent. “Grace Too,” “Fifty Mission Cap,” “Bobcaygeon,” “Wheat Kings.” Where would we be without these wonderful songs?

    No American band has ever brought a country together like the Hip just did. Never. We now have bragging rights!

    Reply
    • September 6, 2016 at 8:28 pm
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      Hip has played Dallas, Houston, Austin many times and we have loved them – for the music, not their national identity. As for the “poet” who wrote the hatchet job – music is personal taste, but if you agree “100%” with this guy who hates when people come together to celebrate a band that they love, check out his other work, including one where he makes the case for why giving women getting the vote has ruined western society. http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2016/08/reconsidering_the_female_franchise.html

      Reply
  • September 4, 2016 at 11:45 am
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    Take off eh!! WE know who WE are!! We know what and whom we like. We know there is no better life or place to live. We know or HIP is essential to our hoserness, and our hoserness is our identity. So, if someone form another country doesn’t understand, it’s because they’re not a Canadian! That’s o.k.

    Reply
  • September 4, 2016 at 12:34 pm
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    In the agonizing 43 word run-on sentence offered at the outset of this article the author observes three specific themes.
    -Self-indulgence, Narcissism, and adulation associated with Lackluster performance.
    As I painfully laboured through this poorly constructed piece I was constantly reminded of these three themes. True to the headline every syllable smacked of Self-indulgence, Narcissism, and guess what..?
    This article is tantamount to public masturbation on the author’s part. Its sole design is to please the perpetrator alone and infuriate any innocent onlooker out for a nostalgic stroll along Tragically Hip way.
    Do you remember the guy who went streaking across the field at the Superbowl last year? Me, neither. There will always be some self-inflated parasite trying to harness the greatness of any event into stealing the spotlight for himself for one very forgettable split-second.

    Reply
  • September 4, 2016 at 4:39 pm
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    I’m American and I love the Hip. I read the article the other day and after reading his biography as,a poet and musician, I chalked him up to being a pompous, bitter old asshole. It’s ironic that he,spoke of Canada as being self important and yet that’s exactly how he comes off.

    Reply
  • September 4, 2016 at 4:50 pm
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    What a strange article. I can understand that some people may not like Gord’s outfit or even his singing. I find at times it takes away from the music but he’s also very entertaining. But to say there was something underhanded about how they announced his condition and then said they would tour is ludicrous. The tour was planned well in advance and not once did the band say it was their last tour or concert. CBC picked it up and made it public for fans and we all made the assumption it was the last time we’d see them but nobody knows what their plans are. And really, you could see the way Gord was looking at the fans, seemingly one at a time as if he was trying to capture every single person to his memory, that wasn’t something that was faked. This concert and tour were iconic to everyone who I spoke to whether they went to a show or watched on CBC. We don’t need some parasite trying to take away from such a beautiful series of moments.

    Reply
  • September 4, 2016 at 5:23 pm
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    I find it interesting people feel they weren’t or aren’t successful because they didn’t achieve international success. I am not a TH FAN , like some of their music and not others…. But….. Miley Cyrus and Justin bieber have both achieved international acclaim, and I certainly don’t consider them good music! Will take my Canadian born talented TH any day over those two. And those are just two! There are so many without real talent on the international stage..there are many definitions of success and that to me is NOT one of them.

    Reply
  • September 4, 2016 at 6:21 pm
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    I live in Kingston, the very heart of the this tragically hIpocritical circus act by my fellow Canadians, the cbc, and the government of this country, and let me tell you it’s a facking nightmare. I couldn’t help but to agree with every single word that was written in his piece and neither could every one in my family. It’s like the country has gone completely insane. I pray that Kingston was just the eye of the storm, and like all the Canadians who were with me in Cleveland that weekend to take in a jays game for a much more reasonable price, we couldn’t give two poops about the hip or the spectacle that was and will soon be Gord Downy(crying on stage into the mic for almost a minute,what a sick moment in our history as a country).

    Reply
    • September 4, 2016 at 11:37 pm
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      Please tell us exactly what is “hypocritical” about this. The government has no involvement at all, the CBC sacrificed plenty of ad revenue to show this, and Canadians are just fans – they had a choice in whether to watch or buy tickets, and millions were obviously interested. I suspect your definition of “hypocritical” comes from the same dictionary Alanis uses.

      Also, “Downy” didn’t cry into the mic for almost a minute. He sang and screamed and performed in almost exactly the same way he’s been doing for more than twenty years. But hey, thanks for your informed and rational commentary.

      Reply
    • September 5, 2016 at 9:46 am
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      I think Steve has you there Luke.

      Reply
    • September 14, 2016 at 3:21 pm
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      hahahaha … yer funny…

      my only comment to this would be on your comment about “overpriced” … paying $1000 to see “Downy” in person is peanuts to wasting 5¢ watching paint dry…. er … I mean a baseball game … also, how many Canadians actually play on the Jays… talk about circus hype… any and all US sports are completely circus hype… they’re all media and market driven spectacles … try watching a baseball game or NFL game without sound… it’s horrendously boring …

      Reply
  • September 4, 2016 at 7:01 pm
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    And I suppose he also thinks he lives in the best country in the world. He’s a joke with no taste.

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  • September 4, 2016 at 7:38 pm
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    Well said Mark. Solway’s piece is disrespectful pathetic troll bait and poor journalism riddled with inaccuracies (Halifax was not where the final concert was held)

    Unfortunately Cross is now just as guilty pointing readers in his direction. Solway’s sole intention is to provoke reaction. Don’t get sacked In. It really isn’t worth reading.

    Reply
  • September 4, 2016 at 7:53 pm
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    Thanks for posting this so we can avoid actually rising to his clickbait. Fact is, any U.S. criticism of Canadian music is pretty much irrelevant. Since the 80s, Canada has produced great bands like the Hip, Rheostatics, Weakerthans, Super Friendz, Treble Charger, etc. But what have Americans embraced? Celine Dion, Bieber, Nickelback and “Chickety-China, the Chinese Chicken.”

    Reply
  • September 4, 2016 at 8:11 pm
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    “A Canadian poet and essayist” that pretty much tells me all I need to know about David Solway. My opinion of the Hip and their final tour aside it is painfully obvious to me that Solway is jealous of the real role the Hip have played in the cultural life of real Canadians over the last 20 plus years. How many of the 11 million Canadians who watched the Hips final concert have ever heard of Solway let alone been touched or moved or amused by a single word he’s written?

    Reply
    • September 5, 2016 at 12:15 am
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      No need to be mean to essayists and poets, Gord is a poet and Chuck Klosterman and Nick Hornby are both essayists. Heck Mordecai Richler was both AND Canadian and he was awesome; I think the key factor here is Solway’s just kind of a prick and you nailed it on the head about jealousy. 😛 Let’s not paint all pets and essayists with the same brush as this Solway character, Solway is just giving them a bad name. 😛

      Reply
  • September 4, 2016 at 8:50 pm
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    Who invited him anyways?

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  • September 4, 2016 at 11:56 pm
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    This guy doesn’t know what real music is some of the biggest musicians in the world especially recently have been from Canada and the hip has been around over 30 years rocking every event they’ve played and they are still rocking it the Kingston show was by far the best most emotionally felt concert I’ve ever seen and I wouldn’t want it any other way so live a little and diversify your mind and listen to the lyrics and then think about who the hip really are in my eyes they are greatest band to ever perfom

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  • September 5, 2016 at 12:30 am
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    Wow. People really hate this guy. Thing is, I agree 100%, and before you whip insinuations, I bought many hip albums, saw them live various times over their career and even saw Gord Downie’s solo poetry show…it was a sad spectacle of an over-rated band with an engaging and enigmatic lead singer, who sadly, hasn’t been able to sing very well for the past 10 years. I am saddened by Gord’s condition, but I don’t remember Ali for his fights in the 80’s when he had early-onset Parkinson’s. I remember The Thrilla in Manilla.

    Reply
  • September 5, 2016 at 8:40 am
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    I mean the hip phenomenon was a great distraction for most Canadians from the chaos happening within their neighbours to the south all along Justin Trudeau is still exploiting eco and financial resources sweeping in rich “refugees” into the country making deals with Saudi Arabia to sell them armor vehicles, allowing the pipeline to run and nestle pumping illegally into our water sheds.

    Reply
  • September 5, 2016 at 9:05 am
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    People like the Hip. I don’t, and I don’t get why people do. However, we all connect with music differently and that’s an amazing thing!

    My issue was/is with those who chastise those of us who don’t like the Hip, calling us un-Canadian, etc. “How can you NOT like the Hip?!?!” A local radio station DJ even posted that anyone who wasn’t watching the concert should leave Canada. Which is about as un-Canadian as one can be.

    But those who are fans had one “last” chance to experience one of their favorite bands, and I’m happy for them for that.

    Reply
  • September 5, 2016 at 5:53 pm
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    I think it would be amazing for gord to be the miracle exception to the longevity of life when you have a glio. Being a neuro nurse and seeing the fate i hope he lives a long painless remaining days and for dising his choice to do what he loves while he is still strong and able is amazing for him. And to include canada in his journey even better. I am not a hip fan and didnt go follow his concerts attempting to be one with history but i applaude him for living his life the way he choses and good for him he had the chance as many dont and hope for years of his being able to continue living his life as optimally as he can. Haters are always going to hate.

    Reply
  • September 5, 2016 at 8:11 pm
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    The alleged charms of the Hip have been completely lost on me, too. What’s to like? The music is turgid, the singing worse, and the “Canadian identity’ lyrics have all the profundity of a drunk bellowing Molson’s 1 a.m. Canadian rant at, err, one a.m. After too much beer.

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  • September 6, 2016 at 1:11 am
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    I don’t like The Tragically Hip. Didn’t care enough to tune into their last concert. And I Am Canadian. It’s the Nickelback Syndrome. People will eternally question why people like them, but for that specific demographic, Niickelback is all they really need. These fans won’t bother to push beyond that and explore musical boundaries, and that’s fine.

    As for The Tragically Hip, this basically meat-and-potatoes blues-rock for the masses, and this is what the majority likes. It resonates with them. It’s engrained in their DNA to love everyman bar-room rock. Me personally? I think The Tragically Hip are bland and boring. Ontop of that, Gord Downie’s vocals sound like Kermit The Frog.

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  • September 6, 2016 at 11:29 pm
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    I highly recommend that he read Teddy Roosevelt’s most popular speech, commonly called ‘The man in the arena”…and think about what a terrible existence he leads…maybe he’ll actually get off his soap box and do something actually meaningful like Gord did. Btw, Gord did amazingly well for someone who has terminal cancer directly affecting his speech centre of his brain among likely others. His doctor advised him not to do the tour but clearly Gord loves what he does and ALOT of people love him for it. It was the tour we all needed to celebrate this man’s life and let him and all members of the Tragically Hip know how much they are truly loved and will be missed. Anyone who criticizes what a man chooses to do with his numbered days and those who appreciated the bands work truly is a troll who should be ignored. His writing is only good to wipe asses with.

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  • September 7, 2016 at 3:22 pm
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    I should probably mention that I’m also a Canadian that is not a huge fan of the Hip, which is the only reason I read Solway’s article last night—with regret… I do not share his overall sentiments at all. But I feel the need to vent….
    My main problem with Solway’s piece is that he’s playing off his opinion as fact: “But there is also another explanation: despite all the saccharine hype that surrounds them, they are just not very good, a minor band with no international resonance and an overblown reputation at home.” Says you, Mr. Solway. But I have a handful of friends who would disagree. So who’s right and who’s wrong? No one is right, and no one is wrong. I am so tired of people proclaiming like their (music) tastes and opinions are the be all and end all. I don’t like corn but that doesn’t mean it should be awful to everyone or that the world needs a lengthy article on my negative opinion about it. I just don’t eat it, and that’s that. There’s plenty of other food out there for me to enjoy. Same with music. Music is an art and art is subjective. There is no “right” and “wrong” in art. I can’t stand it when people don’t like something and then try to file it in the “wrong” category—it doesn’t exist in art. Clearly, Solway should have been doing something else instead of watching a performance he didn’t enjoy, and then we would all have been much better off… But, instead of admitting masochism, he wrote an excuse for not being a more positive-minded person.
    And to compare Downie’s choice to have a round of shows with Bowie’s lack of… consider the age difference, perhaps. Also consider that Downie did not force anybody to attend or watch their shows, and yet so many did! And above all, consider that people are (or should be) free to perform and appreciate whatever music they want and there’s really no excuse for such negativity to be cast on them for having a different taste—except, perhaps, your own inner follies…
    Needless to say, I will not be reading any other articles written by Solway. Alan Cross, though…? I think you’re amazing. But that’s just my opinion. 😉

    Reply
  • December 28, 2016 at 1:28 am
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    Overblown tribute by those who pretend to have been followers of a band that was mediocre globally and generationally strong nationally. A catastrophic illness does not define your greatness musically or otherwise.

    I wish him God’s speed for a recovery……….

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  • July 5, 2021 at 10:05 am
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    I’ve never liked the Hip and always thought Gord Downie tried too hard to be a Rock Star with a capital R. Getting sick certainly didn’t hurt the band’s popularity and Downie took full advantage of it to cement his place as Canada’s greatest ever musician and humanitarian.

    Reply

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