Watching Canada’s Biggest Rock Band Say a Dramatic Goodbye

Stephen Marche, writing for the New Yorker:

Rock and roll has always been in love with death. It’s the genre of the so-called Twenty-Seven Club, the genre of “I hope I die before I get old.” It’s Jimi Hendrix up late in London, Janis Joplin at a hotel with a needle, Keith Richards doing anything anywhere—the music is defined by its proximity to mortality. This summer, in Canada, one band is living that connection fully and completely. Gord Downie, the lead singer of the Tragically Hip, is suffering from glioblastoma, a terminal tumor in his left temporal lobe. But dying hasn’t stopped the tour. Downie is coming out on stage every night to burn out publicly. It has been glorious.

The Tragically Hip are one of the biggest bands in Canadian history. The band has had nine No. 1 albums here, and has spent as much time at the top of the charts as Bryan Adams. The band members have been on a stamp. Why they have never translated to the American audience is one of the great mysteries of Canadian popular culture. I have never heard or read a convincing explanation. Their songs are catchy, and every other act anywhere near their size in Canada has gone on to success elsewhere. But the Tragically Hip belong to the North alone, it seems.

One of the first concerts I ever saw was the Tragically Hip as a teenager. I’ve seen them play in concerts at least a dozen times since then and their songs are on most of play lists.

I think most of Canada watched this concert last night and thought back to when they’d seen them perform in concert at some point.

The Tragically Hip are a Canadian icon, a piece of Canadian music history that won’t be forgotten