Outside of the hardcore faithful that can be found in the border cities, the Tragically Hip remains unknown to most Americans. This has nothing to do with the band’s music and everything to do with bad timing, problems with record contracts and issue with record labels. There’s no point on dwelling on that.
America has, however, notice how Canada has reacted to this final(?) Hip tour. This is from Slate:
Should you ever need to endear yourself to a Canadian, say how sad you were to hear about Gord. Canada has fixated on Gord Downie this summer as he makes his final journey across the country, an incurable tumor growing rapidly inside his left temporal lobe. When the tour wraps up this weekend, we’ll all return to our daily lives nervously watching Trump. But for Canadians anywhere in the world, Saturday night is the Gehrig speech. It’s the O.J. verdict and the M.A.S.H. finale. It’s every second of sudden-death overtime we’ve ever played against Russia.
Downie’s band, the Tragically Hip, is one of those enormous entities that cannot be understood outside its homeland. In Canada, we just call them the Hip, and Downie is simply Gord. And I am betraying something sacred by attempting to explain what he means to us. Gord is the country’s spirit animal in the only way a 52-year-old white man might legitimately be classified as a “spirit animal.”
Gord emerged from a tradition of scrappy, sensitive Canadians, drawn to the disappearing backwaters where beer tastes like “half fart and half horse piss.” He is, first and foremost, a poet. (One of his most famous songs is called “Poets.”) But Gord is also a hockey player. He articulates the esoteric inner mythologies the latter has never felt comfortable saying aloud.
The Hip formed in Kingston, Ontario, in 1984, and their first three albums were made for hockey players. Their sound is ubiquitously referred to as “blues-tinged.” The early hits with titles like “Small Town Bringdown,” “Highway Girl,” “Blow at High Dough,” “Three Pistols,” and “New Orleans is Sinking,” became the meat and potatoes of Canadian commercial radio.