The Tragically Hip, Canada’s pride and joy.
The Hip were founded in 1984 and has had the same line up (give or take their saxophone player Davis Manning who was only around until ’86) their entire career. Gordon Downie is their lead singer, lyricist, guitar player, and all-around awesome guy. Paul Langlois on guitar as well, Rob Baker (aka Bobby Baker) also shreds it on the guitar, Gord Sinclair is on bass and Johnny Fay lights it up on the drums.
Not since Zeppelin have I seen a band that has enough respect for each other (and their music) to not kick out members and replace them for trivial reasons.
In 1984, in Kingston Ontario, Gord Sinclair and Rob Baker were students at Kingston Collegiate. They played together in school variety shows and other shows along that line in a band called “The Rodents.” The Rodents joined Downie and Fay and being inspired by a skit in the 1981 movie “Elephant Parts” decided to call themselves “The Tragically Hip” aka “The Hip”. They began playing gigs around Kingston in local pubs and such. And in ’86 their line up as we know it today was complete, Davis Manning left and Paul joined.
For the record they didn’t kick Manning out or anything of the sort.
Throughout the mid 80’s they preformed at small venues across Ontario, then one night, while preforming at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto the then president of MCA Bruce Dickinson was in the audience and practically signed them on the spot. It was a long-term record deal which produced their self-titled EP (can you guess what it was called) “The Tragically Hip” The EP produced 7 songs; including the 2 hit singles “Small Town Bring Down” and “Highway Girl”
In 1989 they followed it up with their first actual ALBUM “Up To Here” The album produced 4 singles, “Blow At High Dough”, “New Orleans Is Sinking”, “Boots or Hearts” and “38 years old” Canada’s rock scene was obsessed with them.
“Road Apples” came next and reached no.1 on Canadian record charts. Now I’m not gonna go album by album through their history, but I mentioned up to “Road Apples” because that’s the tour where Gord Downie became known for and/or recognized for his story telling and adlibbing lyrics (in a good way) during performances.
These first couple albums were categorized as a sort of *bluesy rock* proving that they’ve always had a really interesting and unique sound.
During the 90’s they produced a couple more albums and really experimented with their sound. They lost the bluesy sound but continued to explore really unique styles. The band explored with all sorts of sound structures, chord progressions and vocal styles. And unlike most rock songs, the Hip wrote about themes connected to Canadian wilderness and history, but then starting with “Fully Completely” they explored themes a lot more profound. Many critics actually consider “Day For Night” to be the most fully realized and artistic album in The Hips’ discography.
In July of ’96 a little after the Hip preformed as the musical guest on Saturday Night Live, they headlined a 3 day outdoor concert in Bowman Ontario and ended up preforming for an estimated 90,000 people.
Flash forward to ’98 and the Hip released their 7th full length album “Phantom Power” It produced 5 singles and won a couple of Juno awards in 1999, including Best Rock Album, then in 2000 “Bobcaygcon” from the same album (which had been certified platinum three times in Canada) won the Juno for Single of the Year.
In 2000 “Music @ Work” was released and won the 2001 Juno for Best Rock Album. The Hip were busy for the next couple of years, performing for Queen Elizabeth II, getting a star on Canada’s walk of Fame, making music, all that fun stuff. Anyway, lets fast forward to 2004 when “In Between Evolutions” was released and soared to no.1 in Canadian charts (its since sold over 100,000 copies)
After being pretty busy all of 2004, they released “Yer Favorites” a ‘best of’ album comprised entirely of songs that fans voted for, (also my favorite album).
In 2006 the band toured through major Canadian cities, then opened for “The Who” on several US dates. Then they toured through eastern Canada, Europe and a few US cities.
Now I’m just gonna breeze through the next couple of years here- they released more albums, were amazing people, preformed at charities, and were perhaps the most Canadian band ever and premiered “At Transformation” during “Hockey Night In Canada”
They did more, but you get the picture…
Now that brings us to 2016, and honestly, I’ve been dreading writing this next part.
On May 24, 2016 the band announced that Gord Downie had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. However, like the Canadian hero that he is, during intense chemotherapy, Gord and the guys went on with their ‘Man Machine Poem’ tour, travelling across Canada. Starting in Victoria and ending where it all started 33 years ago, Kingston Ontario, the band put on some incredible and very emotional shows.
And I know that I focused more on their albums and stuff, but to summarize the human aspect of the band, they’re all amazing people who make and preform music because that’s what they genuinely love to do. They love their fans and they love their jobs and we love them for it.
And to The Hip – you’ve made Canada proud countless times and inspired countless Canadians. Thank You.