In the small town of Kingston Ontario, a group of five determined men, would form one of Canada’s biggest most significant musical acts of all time, “The Tragically Hip.” In 1983, vocalist Gordon Downie, lead guitarist Rob Baker, rhythm guitarist Paul Langlois, bass guitarist Gord Sinclair, and drummer Johnny Fay would band together to create an act that would take Canada’s musical scene by storm. Through their artistic talent, and their unique showmanship, the band earned their spot up their with the greats. Let it be said that the Tragically Hip, are one of the most historically significant and most influential Canadian musical acts of all time, and a key part of Canada’s history in arts and culture, due to their noteworthy history as philanthropists and activists, their various achievements and acknowledgments, their amazing journey to stardom, and most importantly, their amazing ability to tell the stories of both, the moments of pride in Canada’s history, as well as some of the darker parts of its past. With many important figures commenting on the Tragically Hip and their amazing story, such as Justin Trudeau with his statement,  “The Tragically Hip are an essential part of what Canada is,” it is very apparent that the Tragically Hip are one of the many puzzle pieces that form Canada’s amazing diverse identity. (2)The landscape of Canadian music was changing in 1985, as boomers were washed up, and punk had crashed just as fast as it had grown. Canadian music was viewed as a joke. (13) However, this was all about to change, when the band “The Tragically Hip,” first started to build their path into the music industry, at a performance in the Horseshoe Tavern in 1986, where they caught the attention of the at the time president of MCA records, Bruce Dickinson. (4) Bruce was impressed by their performance, and this led to the group being signed to MCA, who with they would record their self titled EP (extended play) in 1987, followed by their album “Up to Here”  in 1989, which would contain hit singles such as “Blow at High Dough” and “New Orleans is Sinking.” (4) Thus, the creation of “Canrock,” a genre which stemmed from folk. (13) This genre was Canada’s ticket back into the mainstream music scene. Their business with MCA would end after recording two more albums, “Fully Completely,” and “Trouble at the Henhouse,”. (4) They would go on to record with other labels such as Atlantic Records and Universal music. (12) In total, the band recorded 13 studio albums over the course of its 33 year reign. The band eventually established a reputation for intense exciting live performances, and would go on to tour extensively within Canada, and touring in other countries such as the U.S, Europe, and even Australia. (4) Although they boasted a very large Canadian fanbase, they always had trouble making it out of their home land. The one other country in which the band had a sizeable fanbase was the United States. Although they had some fans in the land of the free, they were never able to “breakout,” with most of their American fanbase being on bordering American towns such as Buffalo New York. (13) Most of the credit for their fame in the U.S can be given to their amazing performance on Saturday Night Live in March of 1995, during which they performed their song “Grace Too.” (1) Fellow Canadian icon Dan Aykroyd was hosting that night, and had the privilege to introduce them before they began playing. (1) The band also managed to chart four different entries on the billboard mainstream rock tracks single chart in the United States.(13) It was official. The band had made it. Many would argue that it is safe to say that the Tragically Hip can be credited with having quite history in philanthropy and activism, most notably during their co-founded schedule of tours. This was called “Another Roadside Attraction.” This series of performances was put together in order to raise money for various unspecified international charities. (4) The Hip headlined each tour, and had an assortment of supporting bands performing after them. (5) Each performance lasted around a total of eight hours. This event took place in the years, 1993, 1995, and 1997. In the third and final year of the tour (1997), for the first time, the event scheduled shows outsider e of Canada. (5) These dates were in Darien Lake, New York and Highgate, Vermont. (5) The “Another Roadside Attraction” tour sold out in all three of its years. (5) The band could not unfortunately organize another fundraiser in 1999, since they had just came off of their tour for their at the time new album , “Phantom Power.” (5) However, nonetheless this was an amazing event, since it managed to sell out in all three of its years. The “Another Roadside Attraction,” tour was one of the many ways the Tragically Hip was able to prove themselves as truly outstanding artists, and to prove themselves as truly outstanding Canadians. As well as this, the five bands which performed in the first year of the “Another Roadside Attraction,” event in 1993, were able to come together once again in the same year to put together a charity single by the name of  “Land.” (1)  Together, the Tragically Hip, Midnight Oil, Hothouse Flowers, Daniel Lanois, and Crash Vegas came together to create a song protesting the clearcutting of forests in the province of British Columbia. (5) Clear Cutting is a non-selective method of logging in which a majority of trees in the region are cut down, which is why it could serious damage the ecosystems in which it is practiced. (5) This is why the Hip felt as though the public needed more exposure to this topic and its consequences, and thus why they and four other musical acts decided to record the song. Another example of the band and more specifically Gord Downie’s commitment to make Canada, and the world a better place is the Gord Downie Chanie Wenjack fund. Founded on October 13th of 2016, the Gord Downie Chanie Wenjack fund began taking donations from willing citizens to support reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples. (9) It was founded in memory of Chanie Wenjack, an Anishinaabe boy who in 1963 at the young age of 9 was sent to a residential school, and in 1966, alongside nine other boys, ran away in hopes of reconnecting with his family. (10) However, unfortunately, within 24 hours, all of the boys were caught, and one week after, his body was found next to railway tracks. (10) Downie recognized the problem, and was well aware that Chanie’s story was just one of many others of indigenous children who have fell victim to residential schools, which is why he founded this fund alongside the Wenjack family. (9) Downie and the band have contributed an astounding amount to making Canada and the world a better place, and it is has become apparent that their care for the well being of everyone is a very strong force that has led them to do many amazing things. Now, the Hip also have an amazing history of using their music to tell the stories of Canada’s past. A prime example of this would be their song, “Locked in the Trunk of a Car.” This song took a hot button issue in the 70’s, and told its story through music. The song “Locked in the Trunk of a Car,”  tells the story of Quebec and its brush with terrorism during the “October Crisis/FLQ crisis,” and more specifically the story of the murder of Pierre Laporte, a Quebec minister at the time, whose body was found in the trunk of a car, after he was kidnapped, and murdered by the terrorist group, the “Front de liberation du Quebec” (the FLQ) during the october crisis, a time of discontent amongst the French Canadian population, due to rising unemployment, and the desire of independence for Quebec, which led to the formation of the FLQ. (3) Although the song does not specifically tell the story, it appears to be heavily referenced, in lyrics such as, “lashing out, at machine revving tension,”  which seems to express the fear and frustration that must have been felt by Pierre Laporte during his capture. Another prime example of Downie’s storytelling through his lyrics would be the band’s hit song “Wheat Kings,” which tells the story of David Milgaard, a man who was wrongfully convicted of the rape and murder of nurse Gail Miller, in saskatchewan 1969, and more specifically, David Milgaard’s faith in himself, and his mother Joyce’s faith in her son. (3) Through lyrics such as “20 years for nothing, well that’s nothing new, besides, no one is interested in something you didn’t do,” and “In his Zippo lighter, he sees the killer’s face, maybe it’s someone, standing in a killer’s place,” Downie beautifully told the tale of one of the most notorious miscarriages of justice in Canada’s history, in which David lost 23 years of his life for a crime which he did not commit. (6) The Hip however, also tell the stories of Canada’s goodside in its past, in songs such as “Courage.”  “Courage,” is not so much a story as it is a memorial written for the late Hugh Maclennan, a famous Canadian author and professor, who can be credited for writing popular novels such as “Two Solitudes,” and “The Watch that Ends the Night.” (3) The song was mostly inspired by “The Watch that Ends the Night.” The novel is written around a man who was presumed to have died in a Nazi prison camp, but suddenly reappears in a post World War Two Montreal. (7) The final verse of the song contains a paraphrased version of the books closing lines, “Courage my word. It didn’t come it doesn’t matter. Courage your word, it didn’t come it doesn’t matter. Courage my word. It didn’t come it doesn’t matter. Courage, it couldn’t come at a worse time. It couldn’t come at a worse time. It couldn’t come at a worse time.” Another amazing example of the band’s ability to share moments of Canadian history through song is “50 Mission Cap,” a song about a famous Canadian hockey hero Bill Barilko, a Toronto Maple Leafs player who scored the winning goal of the 1951 Stanley Cup final between the Montreal Canadians and the Toronto Maple Leafs. (3) Barilko unfortunately went missing while on a fishing trip the following summer, and his body would not be found until another 11 years passed. (3) The lyrics in this song are a lot more straightforward, for example, “Bill Barilko disappeared that summer. He was on a fishing trip.” A majority of the song tells Bill Barilko’s story without the use of metaphors and other poetic devices unlike most of the bands other songs. Nonetheless, through their music, the Tragically Hip shared with us the stories of our past, and what it truly means you must accept, as a Canadian. Like most other noteworthy musical acts, the Tragically Hip have received lots of recognition from various award ceremonies to celebrate and reward their musical excellence. Some examples of this would be their hit album “Up to Here,” receiving a platinum status, meaning it was purchased at least a million times, which is quite a feat. (4) This album also earned the group a Juno award in 1990 for “Most Promising Group of the Year.” (4) Following this award, the band also received recognition from the “Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences,” as well as won “Entertainer of the Year, in 1991, 1993, and 1995, and “Group of the Year,” in 1995. (4) For the second time, the band in 1997 won the Juno award for “Group of the Year.” (4) Their album “Phantom Power,” won the Juno for “Best Rock Album of the Year,” in 1999, and in 2000, their hit song from the same album “Bobcaygeon,” won the Juno for “Best Single.” (4) A majority of the bands awards were from Canadian academies, as a majority of their success was in Canada, however, such an impressive amount of awards and recognitions, is a true indication of their talent and ability to move people with their music. In May of 2016, Downie publicly disclosed his diagnosis of glioblastoma, a type of brain tumor which has one of the poorest survival rates in the world. (11) Following this, a farewell tour was announced which would also be a tour for the band’s latest album, “Man Machine Poem.” (11) After a series of beautiful, fun, intense performances, a final show was put on in the band’s hometown of Kingston Ontario on August 20th of 2016, and one year and two months later, Downie succumbed to his illness, and Canada lost a legend. (9) Following this tragedy, Justin Trudeau delivered a speech with teary eyes to commemorate this Canadian hero. “Gord was my friend. But he was everyone’s friend, our buddy Gord, who loved this country with everything he had.” (8) Following all this, it has become very apparent that the Tragically Hip have greatly impacted Canada. In conclusion, let it be said, after a look at the Tragically Hip and their ability to tell the darkness, and the good of Canada’s past, their various awards and recognitions, their history in philanthropy and environmental activism, and finally their wholesome journey to stardom, that it can be concluded that the Tragically Hip, are one of the most historically significant and most influential Canadian musical acts of all time, and a key part of Canada’s history in arts and culture. Through their storytelling, the band showed us what it truly means to be Canadian, and that with all the proud moments in our history, we must also accept the darker ones. Although we had to say goodbye to Gord Downie last October, after he lost his battle with brain cancer, let it be known, that as Canadians, him and his band’s music will live on in our hearts forever.

Categories: Articles


I'm Garrett!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out