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Using their music to celebrate the Hip

While it didn’t necessarily start when news of Gord Downie’s illness was announced, covers of  the Tragically Hip’s music certainly have flourished since then.

And why not? These are wonderfully written songs, complete with skilled storytelling and great compositions that feel like stepping into the lives of fully formed characters just waiting to step up to the mic and sing.

These are more than just songs to sing with buddies around the campfire. These are more than just party songs. They’re also more than words and melodies to reflect back a multifaceted and flawed and wonderful nation. There are 13 albums full of wisdom and poetry, nuance and light, love and loss and all things that make life complete.

Here’s an admittedly incomplete of 10 of the best Hip covers from artists across the nation, with one extra for good measure. Let us know in the comments which ones you’d add.

Scott Helman, Bobcaygeon from Phantom Power

Hey Rosetta!, Ahead by a Century, from Trouble at the Henhouse

Alert the Medic, Grace, Too, from Day for Night

Barenaked Ladies, Chancellor, from Coke Machine Glow, a Gord Downie solo album 

The Trews, Fireworks, from Phantom Power

Arkells, My Music @ Work, from Music @ Work 

Sarah Harmer and Jim Creeggan, Morning Moon, from We Are the Same

The Stereophonics, Blow at High Dough, from Up to Here

Amos the Transparent, Gift Shop, from Trouble at the Henhouse


USS, Something On, from Phantom Power

Dan Mangan, Nautical Disaster, from Day for Night

Of course, if you want a more complete playlist you can set and forget for four hours, go to the Strombo Show’s incredible tribute to the Hip for the band’s 30th anniversary, originally aired on January 1, 2017. It’s a gift.


Some musicians go one step further. They didn’t want to just sing the Hip’s songs; they wanted to create something new and different but with a little of that Hip flavour or essence that so many love.

Check these out!

k-os, Crabbuckit

It’s a fast, groovy, sneeze-and-you’ll-miss-it name drop but it’s a fun, cross-genre one that’s worth cranking up. It’s simple but doesn’t need to be more: “Tragically Hip, Ahead by a Century.”


The Glorious Sons, Gordie

A track from Kingston’s  own Glorious Sons became a major moment when the band played in Toronto two nights after Gord Downie’s death. As you can see, the audience silences the song for a full minute or two with their applause and shouts, a therapeutic moment in week when many of us were really hurting. Sometimes only the right song can make things better, even if it’s just for a moment.


The Trews, … And We Are The Trews

It’s hard to find a Canadian band not mentioned in this song, off their 2012 release and fifth album …Thank You and I’m Sorry. It seems nearly every Canadian band’s name is mentioned in this track, from Tim Chaisson and Daniel Wesley to Eric Lapointe et Rock Voisine and Jean Leloup, along with “every guy in every band who’s named Gordie.” Considering there are not one but TWO Gordies in the Hip, that’s gotta be a nod.
Arkells, Relentless
Now wait a minute… this song doesn’t say anything about the Hip, the casual listener might say. In a massive article in Toronto’s Globe and Mail in late August, the band admitted that some of the lyrics were inspired by Gord Downie. On some fateful day, the Hip’s Paul Langlois said that Gord was “relentless — like a dog on a bone,” and a song was born.


Our Lady Peace, Ballad of a Poet (for Gord Downie)

The songs on OLP’s latest album, Somethingness, were already in the works when Downie passed away. In an interview with the Toronto Sun, singer Raine Maida said it was inspired by a trip to Toronto for the Toronto Music Awards. “It was crappy,” he said. “It was terrible — until the Hip came out. And I kind of heard their name. I didn’t know any of their music. So this song, Ballad of a Poet, is just a recollection of that night. Seeing this guy who really made that distinction between entertainer and artist. Gord was the consummate artist and just transcended everything in that room that night like, ‘That is what I want to do.'”

Amber Healy

I write about music policy and lawsuits because they're endlessly fascinating.

Amber Healy has 521 posts and counting. See all posts by Amber Healy

One thought on “Using their music to celebrate the Hip

  • I think it’s likely the Trews we’re talking primarily about Gordie Johnson, who produced them for a while, but my guess is that they realized they could also include The Hip with a clever line.


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