Since I am so far behind in my blogging, I might as well write this story as well. In the frantic pace to finish up consultations and projects for Pukunui, an event happened a month ago that kind of shook me a little. On October 18th1, I made a quick there-and-back same day trip to Brisbane to meet with a client. A long day. And when I got home, I check my messages in my driveway, and there was waiting for me a news alert; a literal “late breaking story on the CBC”.
Gord Downie had passed away.
— CBC Music (@CBCMusic) October 18, 2017
I pretty much just sat in my car for awhile, overcome with grief.
The thing is, we knew this day would come. We all grieved already when the Tragically Hip announced Gord had brain cancer. And I tuned in for their last concert, like so many others worldwide, streamed live on YouTube.
So I knew this punch was coming; why did it hurt so much?
A lot of people have said Gord Downie was Canada’s poet. Yeah, I’d agree I suppose. With his death so raw, it’s easy for everyone to say he was Canada’s voice, and I’m not disagreeing. But I’d also nominate Leonard Cohen, Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, k.d. lang, Neil Young, Cuddy & Keelor and Page & Robertson as Canada’s Song Writer(s). It’s hard for me to pick the best, but Gord and the Tragically Hip are in my top ten for sure.
Favourite Hip Songs
The Hip’s lyrics (and Gord’s delivery) are amazing. It’s hard for me to pick the best, the one that resonates with me the most. If you’re pushing me, I’ll say Nautical Disaster from Live Between Us is my favourite. I could literally share three dozen Tragically Hip songs you need to go listen to right now. But the song In A World Possessed By The Human Mind was released just after the band announced Gord had terminal cancer. I find the words and imagery haunting, like they knew when they wrote it. They didn’t but, it’s hard for me not to connect this song with facing mortality.
I guess that’s the thing that gets me the most; Gord faced mortality head-on. With courage. With unbelievable courage. It feels like we’re losing our heroes constantly these past two years. Just that week, we lost the great actor John Dunsworth. Are we really, or are we getting older, is this what growing old means? They all suck, every loss bites at you a little more, be it your heroes or your friends, they all suck.
But Gord really deserved the title of hero, the way he faced his mortality and made it mean something. The way it pushed him to make a bridge to the First Nations and find healing for us all. This interview from 2016 is the face of courage.
I can’t imagine that kind of courage.
There were many tributes to Gord, I could fill this page. My favourite I suppose was this one from Rick Mercer:
Mom and Dad are Hip fans?
Anyway, a long and rambling post, I know. It’s been a month, and it’s still raw. And I’m betting it’s still raw for many Canadians around the world.
I guess I’ll finish on this; a week ago I was talking to Mom and Dad about this, that and the other, and just before we hung up, my Mother said “Go listen to some of that Tragically Hip. That Gord Downie is a good man.” Now, my Mom and Dad listen to the likes of John Denver and Roger Whittaker. They have Nana Mouskouri CDs in their car. Hard rock to them is Simon and Garfunkel. True story, growing up I put on their copy of the White Album and my Dad came into my room to tell me to turn off that heavy metal.
Gord Downie was more than just the lead singer of some band you’d never heard of unless you were Canadian. He was a poet, he was a healer, he was brave – braver than most, he was a dreamer. He was an artist in every sense of the word.
If you didn’t know him, get to know him.
Thank you, Gord.
Still grieving over Gord? Or Tom Petty or David Bowie or Prince, or any of our heroes? Leave a thought in the comments. I’d love to share favourite Hip lyrics with you.
Photo Credit: Tragically Hip in Toronto, Night 1. from Toronto embraces Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip 2016 Nick Iwanyshyn/Maclean’s.