A Nation of Rockers: The Tragically Hip

It seems appropriate that I begin this journey into Canadian Rockingness with The Tragically Hip. For one, they represent a lot more than music in many Canadians' eyes. They are a movement, a symbol, a manifestation of what it feels like to be Canadian. Their music and lyrics capture an essence of being that we Canadians can never seem to put into words, or even into showy practise. We ask ourselves what we are, how we are seen from an international perspective, but fail to articulate anything at all. We are so much, too much even, while being nothing at all as to allow any and every Canadian the freedom to be who they please (tossed salad syndrome? maybe). At any rate, The Hip have been able to surpass their beer-drinking tail-gating fan persona and get as close to defining what it means to be 'Canadian', with only a simple melody. What Canadian doesn't really truly feel Canadian when listening to 'Wheat Kings' off The Hip's third album Fully Completely? Their fame is also exclusively Canadian, as Wikipedia.com notes "They have never found great success in the United States, but have never specifically sought it". Moving on, now. Ahem. And secondly, it seems appropriate that I begin with The Hip because I lived in Kingston for four years and was neighbour to Hip guitarist Rob Baker (the one with the long hair). His house is small and humble, and very close to Queen's University (which I was attending at the time).

So. The Tragically Hip. Not so tragic, really. Fronted by Gord Downie (a poet who is known for shouting heavily political rants at his audiences), The Hip formed in Kingston, Ontario in 1983. Now consisting of Mr. Downie, Paul Langlois, Rob Baker, Gord Sinclair, and Johnny Fay, they retain their whole but extend to many solo projects. Like the rite of passage for most Canadian bands, The Hip found recognition while playing at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto as were signed to a major label. The Horseshoe Tavern was and is still a cornerstone in the evolution of Canadian music. It's such a seedy little pub, but the walls and ceiling drip with history (sometimes literally).

To see their discography, click here.

The thing I really admire about The Tragically Hip is how they really do celebrate being Canadian, and supporting Can Con. Apart from singing songs about Hockey, they have made cameos on CTV's new hit show 'Corner Gas'. They leant their faces and their music to the 2002 film 'Men With Brooms'. They performed at Live 8, of course, as well as played a huge show in their hometown Kingston the previous summer (such a huge band doesn't usually play such small venues that Kingston has to offer). They all still live in Canada, and have numerous tribute bands litering the country, such as The Practically Hip in southern Ontario.

Grace, too. Their music is multi-levelled... maybe even "deep". Gord Downie truly is a poet (published, in fact. Check out his book and accompanying album 'Coke Machine Glow'). His artistry flows through every lyric, making each song a tribute to his craft and an immense musical experience. His fellow band members offer equal talents. How do such talented people find one another? Perhaps we'll never know. But we do know for certain is that this group of men, these self-proclaimed tragic hipsters, have chemsitry. Their live shows rock a hard bargin. I highly recommend witnessing a Tragically Hip show once before you die.

No dress rehersal. This is our life. Their music is versatile, even in its raw truthfullness. I'm pretty sure that back before CD-burners were readily available and people made mixed-tapes like no tomorrow, every single compilation that I put together included a Hip tune. They seem to have captured every moment, every memory, every emotion of an entire nation and put it into song. Wow.

So what does it mean to be Canadian? It means to be tragically hip, as taught to us by the one and only Tragically Hip.

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