For those readers who aren’t Canadian, let me echo what a couple of generations are feeling today, like the light is slowly going out. You know eventually the light of any artists will fade, eventually, but as a Canadian, you never thought it would happen like this, or this soon. Tonight, no one will be answering their phone, their texts, will be on the road. Every Canadian who isn’t in Kingston, Ontario, will be watching the Tragically Hip Live for their final concert.
The Tragically Hip, was my first introduction to being Canadian.
I have tried wrapping my head around what makes the Tragically Hip so special, I mean, there are other bands, and other Countries, surely since I have lived in so many countries there has to be another band that bottles up a countries sentiment and culture? I couldn’t find one, not one single band.
The Tragically Hip – AKA – The Hip, is a Kingston band, but they aren’t just a band, they are Canadian Artists and Icons. What started as a University band in 1984, in Kingston, would morph into music that mixed blues and rock, and set the stage for music that gave rise to a couple of generations of Canadians. They might not have hit the big time outside of our borders, but no other band can pack a house like the Hip. Every Hip song will bring back memories of a first kiss, first slow dance, first song you sang to your baby (guilty as charged), first song to play on the radio after you get your licence, first song to play in a bar when you become legal. Our firsts are intrinsically attached to a Hip song, simply because our blood beats through our veins to Hip songs.
My first few months in a Canadian small town boarding school was painful, I was a U2 loving DocMartin loving teenager, who truly didn’t understand small town, hockey and beer loving Canada. I cried, I spent all hours of the night with my Walkman in the bathroom. It was very difficult for me to connect, I pretended as best as I could, but being a third culture kid in the a small town boarding school, was like being a whale in a show swimming in circles and being convinced you are really just a performer.
2 months in, we had our first dance. I can remember perfectly that one dance, that music pumping through. It was courage
Every single student in that gym sang along. I had never heard of the band, and I didn’t feel a connection to the song, I just knew that anytime that song came on, everyone would sing along. I had never experienced anything so intimate before.
Fast forward, the summer my Father passed away, I was convinced by a friend to check out a music festival, she felt music would heal my broken heart, or at least open my up to grieving. It was this song, Ahead by a Century, that spoke to me
It was at that pivotal moment, while watching a couple thousand people outside, sing along to this song, that I felt a part of a country. Over the years, I ended up seeing The Tragically Hip 10x in various venues. My favourite, was seeing them with my husband at the Blues Fest in Ottawa. When the Hip came on, there wasn’t screaming, or craziness, a whole crowd of people waited patiently, with complete awe and admiration, the Hip belonged to the people, the Hip played our anthems, the Hip represented everything that is intelligent, thoughtful, charismatic, quiet, insightful and strong about Canada.
It was this song, that my husband and I sang together under the stars, at a cottage, alone in the woods. The perfect Canadian experience, had by a third culture kid. I may never feel completely Canadian, but the Hip always made me feel included. Wheat Kings…
The Hip always brought to light social injustices, political moments that we wanted a voice to. They told the stories through song, they put words to events the rest of us couldn’t.
I thought that I would be able to share the Hip with my son live when he was old enough to experience his first concert, but when the news that Gord Downie the lead singer was diagnosed Terminal Brain Cancer. I knew, that I had to share tonight’s last performance with my son. Tonight, Canada will be unavailable to the world. For many of us, we will be sitting in backyards on chairs watching the live broadcast of the very last concert on a big screen, with neighbours and friends, under the stars, saying goodbye in the most beautiful Canadian way.