It was a Monday in May 2016. I’d just landed at Pearson Airport in Toronto after a 15-hour flight from the Far East. As soon as we left the runway, I turned on my phone to see what I had missed. A lot, actually.
The texts and emails exploded across my screen. Gord Downie was dying of an incurable brain cancer called glioblastoma. He had one year, maybe two. Five at best.
But that same news conference also announced that the Hip was going to on tour again behind their Man Machine Poem album. Well, then. Gord’s condition couldn’t be that bad, right?
That tour turned into a massive celebration of all things Gord, all things Hip, all things rock and all things Canadian. When it ended, tens of millions of people stopped what they were doing and watched that final show that night in Kingston. The band never said that it was the “last” anything, but I think we all knew the truth.
Still, we entered a period of denial. Sure, Gord was sick, but we were still seeing him around. A couple of interviews. His Secret Path documentary and the concerts that went with that. He showed up to receive his Order of Canada. Then in late September, word of a solo album to be released October 27. Surely that was a sign that Gord was doing well, no?
The reality was that there was a lot of radio silence from Gord, his family, the band, management, and the label. Rumours spread about his health, but no one would comment. But no news had to be good news, right?
But then on the morning of October 18, an announcement. Gord was gone.
The outpouring of affection and grief was immediate. Hip music started playing everywhere. The number of Hip songs on the radio went up by 1500% in just one day. We started covering his death like other countries might report on the death of a beloved royal or head of state.
And as the tributes poured in, it was definitely time for a look back on Gord and the Hip and what they meant to us.
Songs heard on this show (all by the Tragically Hip, of course)
In a World Possessed by the Human Mind
Suzie Q (Live)
Small Town Bringdown (Live)
Boots or Hearts (Live)
Grace, Too (Live on SNL)
New Orleans is Sinking (Live) (KillerWhaleTank version)
Blow at High Dough
Playlister Eric Wilhite offers this.
Don’t forget that you can get the podcast version of this podcast through iTunes or wherever you get your on-demand audio.
The Ongoing History of New Music can be heard on the following stations:
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We’re still looking for more affiliates in Calgary, Kamloops, Kelowna, Regina, Saskatoon, Brandon, Windsor, Montreal, Charlottetown, Moncton, Fredericton, and St John’s and anywhere else with a transmitter. If you’re in any of those markets and you want the show, lemme know and I’ll see what I can do.
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