“It’s a good life if you don’t weaken” and Gord Downie never did.
Gord Downie worked tirelessly to the very end. He was a musician, a father, a brother, a protector of water, a leader in Indigenous rights, a friend, a poet, an environmentalist and a teacher. He is still all of those things. He wrote of the history that doesn’t live in our textbooks and he gave breath to the stories. He brought Canadians together and he helped us learn more about ourselves. Wildly courageous and full of love for what seemed like everyone, Gord Downie was the beautiful centrepiece on our Canadian table.
In 2009, my boyfriend and I went to our first concert together: The Tragically Hip at London’s Rock the Park. Part of the We are the Same tour, this concert set our worlds on fire. The Tragically Hip were unreal. Rob treated the audience to the classic Hip licks, his locks flying a little in the breeze. Sinclair quietly gave the songs a heart beat. Johnny Fay killed it on the drums. Paul Langois gave his sideways smirk as he played and at the front, Gord Downie dazzled. He danced, he threw his handkerchief up in the air, he belted the lyrics and sang from his gut. He left it all out on the stage. All of it. While we were already on our way to being hooked on The Hip- that sealed the deal.
We were lucky enough to see a few Hip shows over the years. One that stands out is seeing the boys at Windsor Colloseum in 2015. We got to the casino early, snuck in and were able to listen to the full sound check (and see about half of it through a cracked open door, taking turns to look). It’s a memory that will always stick with me- catching the band in violet light through that little seam. Raw and electric.
The Tragically Hip is a band that stands apart and always will. They stand with the old guard- Neil, Gordon, Leonard- but they’re something unique too. It’s been said- they are the soundtrack to our campfires, hockey change rooms, house parties and road trips- but they’re more. They always were and they always will be. Every year, their music inches further into our collective memories and into my heart. It’s entrenched there forever.
This past summer my boyfriend and I were able to bring our story with The Hip full circle when we caught three shows on their final tour- London, Hamilton and finally, Kingston. The Hip gave us that- a last goodbye. The whole country was given closure. Then out of the ashes, Downie called again- this time for a greater cause. He was striving to protect and regain Indigenous rights and so on the road again- we were able to join this cause. In his final months, not once did Gord Downie weaken.
Peace, love & history.
P.S. I’d love to hear your own experiences with the Hip. Feel free to share them in the comments, I promise to read every single one.
P.P.S. If you would like to honour Gord’s legacy, I’d definitely recommend contributing to The Downie Wenjack Fund.