My mind was reeling all morning upon its initial reading that Gord Downie succumbed to brain cancer. Canada mourns, and with the silence come forth endless memorable riffs. Goodbyes are never easy, and this one was tougher than most others. I’m not prepared, but if I have to.
The Hip came into my life as it started making sense; nevermind the pinball-state thereafter, but they were there, too. The Tragically Hip defined my youth more so than Nirvana and the grunge era ever did. The Hip were at the top of the playlist to the parties of my youth.
They broke us away from the Anne Murrays and Glass Tigers; nothing wrong with these icons, but they didn’t speak to my issues. Same with Platinum Blonde, Kim Mitchell and Bryan Adams. Nothing Canadian did until I was informed that New Orleans is Sinking, man (and I don’t want to swim).
That’s the thing about music. It’s an invisible hand holding ours, providing a soundtrack transporting us back to our memories, wanted or not. That voice, screaming or soothing; your movements match the beat, the worries flutter away. These friends you never see are ever available at your beck and call.
We have lost a lot of these friends these past too-few years. When a voice falls silent, and that artist dies, their legacy is immortalized on wax, tape and digitization. These losses have us grasp tighter to what is left, it’s a safe mistake. We grieve over each memory tagged to each lyric.
As fans, we draw closer. Our community unites in an aural era, celebrating what we and the artist went through. Together and alone. We link together through our headphones, building in strength as an arena belts out lyrics in unity. With the Hip’s final concert, a country sang together the many anthems of our adoration. Music builds community.
They continue to impact our moments, and their music’s power shall sustain this. There’s no simple explanation. When a song plays, we can either dance or cry. Rest In Peace, Gord. You helped give us our country back. And thank you.