I am nearly Canadian. Living on the border town of Detroit much of my life and spending many summer days of my youth at a cottage in Ontario is just the start. I learned the game of hockey by watching CBC and Don Cherry. I worked at Roots for a spell. But my most Canadian pursuit was my fully completely embrace of The Tragically Hip.
The band never reached epic heights in the States. But in Detroit and Buffalo, the group would routinely sell out arenas and sing to a crowd of 20,000. The fact that the band never reached the status of a Pearl Jam or REM made them even more special for me. Like I was fabulously rich. Like I came from downtown. Like I was in on some secret that my fellow Americans had missed.
So when the news broke yesterday morning that Gord Downie had moved to the lonely end of the rink, it was sad but peaceful. Grace, too.
Fans of the band knew this day was coming. As the poet laureate of Canadian rock, Downie spent three decades as the voice of Canada and provided much of the soundtrack of my life.
The Hip will still be on the web for years, and I can carry their music on my iPod Classic, but the world is a little less magical without Downie. His mastery of language and ability to craft colorful lyrics served as a guidebook. Knowing it takes more than another caller with a bachelor degree to grasp what is happening.
Maybe more Americans will discover his work and come to embrace The Tragically Hip. But probably not. So let’s raise a glass of milk to the end of another day. This band was ahead by a century and knew life is no dress rehearsal.