The Tragically Hip are the biggest (and some might say best) Canadian band to not make much of an impact outside of Canada. The band from Kingston, Ontario consisting of five school friends who played together for more than 30 years, releasing 13 studio albums, could be viewed as a rock band by some but are much more than this. They spent their time together celebrating Canadian culture and inspiring many bands in their wake. Their first few albums probably fit best within the Americana tag consisting of bluesy roots rock with their sound developing into more commercial rock and more experimental music in their later years.
‘The Hip’ (as they are known – never The Tragically) were an incredible live band and did their part to celebrate Canadian and other musicians by inviting them on their tours including the Roadside Attraction tours in the 1990s when they played with Wilco, Los Lobos and other Canadian bands.
The news that Gord Downie, lead singer of the band, was seriously ill with terminal brain cancer in 2015 left me and many other Canadians feeling bereft. Gord and The Hip were able through their music to connect with people and it felt like a bigger loss of life than just a musician, it felt like losing a family member. He and the band decided that they would complete a final tour together which ended in their hometown of Kingston in 2016. The final concert was broadcast nationally and watched one third of the Canadian population live.
Gord was able to create more solo music at the end of his life (he died on October 17, 2017). He used his energy to support a focus on Aboriginal rights releasing his final solo album ‘Secret Path‘ – a concept album about an Aboriginal boy who died in 1966 after escaping a Canadian Residential school and trying to walk the 600 miles home.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau summed up the influence of the Tragically Hip with his eulogy stating that “Our buddy Gord, who loved this country with everything he had—and not just loved it in a nebulous, ‘Oh, I love Canada’ way. He loved every hidden corner, every story, every aspect of this country that he celebrated his whole life.”
If you have never had a chance to experience the Hip you are lucky as you get to have the joy of freshly hearing one of the finest Canadian bands ever.
The Tragically Hip EP (MCA, 1987)
Up to Here (MCA, 1989)
Road Apples (MCA, 1991)
Fully Completely (MCA, 1992)
Day for Night (MCA, 1994)
Trouble at the Henhouse (MCA, 1996)
Phantom Power (Universal, 1998)
Music @ Work (Universal, 2000)
In Violet Light (Universal, 2002)
In Between Evolution (Universal, 2004)
World Container (Universal, 2006)
We Are the Same (Universal, 2009)
Now for Plan A (Universal, 2012)
Man Machine Poem (Universal, 2016)
Gord Downie– lead vocals, guitar (1984–2017; deceased)
Rob Baker – guitar (1984–2017)
Paul Langlois – guitar, backup vocals (1986–2017)
Gord Sinclair – bass, backup vocals (1984–2017)
Johnny Fay – drums, percussion (1984–2017)
First song of theirs that I heard was Highway Girl. Piece of poetry.
Great piece. They are one of those bands I’ve always meant to take a deep dive into but never really got around to it, but this has just solidified how much I need to remedy that.
Thank you. They are an incredible band. I still haven’t watched their last show because I’m not sure I could yet. Maybe in a decade or so.
Greatest Canadian band ever, for so much more than their music. Saw them 26 times, from the Up To Here tour to three shows on the last tour, including the final show in Kingston. My god, I miss The Tragically Hip.
Agreed. Difficult to explain to most people who aren’t from the country but they really do epitomize so much about Canada. Will be interesting to see what other band members do in the future.