Reflecting on Gord Downie - A Mortal Immortal
Today we heard the sad, heart-hurting, gut wrenching news that Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie passed away.
“If I die of vanity, promise me, promise me,
They bury me some place I don’t want to be,
You’ll dig me up and transport me, unceremoniously,
Away from the swollen city-breeze, garbage bag trees,
Whispers of disease and the acts of enormity
And lower me slowly, sadly and properly
Get Ry Cooder to sing my eulogy”
Staff here at The Dock have put together a few memories.
Ted R –
The Tragically Hip have ALWAYS been my favorite band. I listened to them all throughout high school, college, first job, first love, etc, etc. They’ve always just been the soundtrack to my youth…and beyond. I remember, back in the day, actually going to the record store the days their new albums came out to buy them. So many memories include music from the Hip. Including, of course, concerts. I’ve seen them at Molson Park, Cobo Hall, Buffalo’s Memorial Auditorium (aka The Aud), The Palace of Auburn Hills, Pine Knob Music Theatre, some club in Grand Rapids, the ACC, The Molson Canadian Amphitheater and more! The MOST memorable concert though…was the first date I had with my wife.
It was in Michigan at what is now the DTE Energy Music Theatre. It was literally our first date. I knew this girl was a special one from the start, so I was REALLY trying to impress her. What better way than a bus trip to a Hip concert? As soon as we walked on to the bus, we were each handed a 6 pack…and things for me, went downhill from there. To make a long story short, I over indulged that night. At the time, I thought it was all good. Partying, having fun, laughing, and maybe a bit of flirting. But when you overindulge, sometimes things that are inside of you eventually want out.
Later in the concert, we were sitting on the grassy hill of the venue listening to the music. Gord goes on one of his famous rants during New Orleans is Sinking. Then, I have to have a little ‘lie down’ on the hill, my stomach didn’t feel too good. They start playing Wheat Kings, my wife’s favourite Hip tune…and at that moment, I knew I had to get out of there. It hit me hard and fast. So I grabbed her hand and said ‘We gotta leave’. She questioned it, but there was no time for that. We marched down the hill and onto the concrete walkway in between the seating and the grassy hill. That’s the point that everything inside of me…wanted out, in a vomitous way. The funny thing was, in my mind, I didn’t think she could see what was going on. I thought I was being incredibly stealthy while I vomited profusely. But I wasn’t. It’s a good thing they were playing their encore, because my night was over. However, I knew that night that I had a keeper! Because my date actually walked me back to the bus, took care of me and nursed me back to semi consciousness. We ended up getting married and having two beautiful children. What a memory…and another story of how the Gord Downie and The Hip is woven into my past.
Ryan S –
Back in 1996 The Hip and Gord Downie became my Rock heroes. They were my first arena rock show. It was the Trouble at the Henhouse tour, I was 13. Ahead by a Century was in heavy rotation on radio and TV. It was my first time at The Canadian Tire Centre (it was The Palladium back then before it shuffled names every few years). It was the first time that I smelt that strange smelling smoke that wafts through concerts.
I remember my eyes being transfixed on Downie. The way he moved about the stage, his primal scream, his poetic tangents – I was hooked. I saw them again in front of city hall in Ottawa at Bluesfest. I tried to see them in Bobcaygeon, but it never worked out – a “not seizing the moment” regret.
They, like other great bands, have a way of becoming your soundtrack – the punctuation to life’s moments. Lakeside BBQing in the Ottawa Valley – they were there. Roadtrips downtown in the summer in a borrowed car – they were there. Campfire – someone would strum their tunes. There is a reason that their last show was must see TV. Plus, they made it cool to namedrop Canadiana.
Jamie H –
When I lived in Toronto and owned the Riverdale Perk on Logan, Gord was a regular customer of mine, and my cafe became his mid day watering hole for Cappuccinos and Lattes. He always had a interesting story tell and was willing to share with everyone who was sitting near him. Of course the first time he came in we are all a little star struck, but he soon became a regular of the cafe and a friend.
Rob W –
Growing up, my stepfather was an incredibly massive fan of the Tragically Hip. I remember having them on in the house almost daily, and that has played a huge role in who I am is a musician.
There’s not a single night that I have played a show that hasn’t included at least one Hip song, which speaks to the level of impact that he has on not only musicians, but the Canadian population in general.
I suspect that for the rest of my life I will continue to pay tribute to the mark that the Tragically Hip and Gord Downie have left on this earth by playing their songs, only now with added pride attached to every note and every word.
Phil M –
I was never a huge Tragically Hip fan growing up but I did enjoy a couple of their tunes when I listened to the radio. Throughout my life, there’s been many a friend that’s tried to convince me that The Tragically Hip were an awesome band but I wasn’t really having it, I did think their name was pretty clever though.
When I worked my first on-air radio job which was handling weekends on a rock station in Belleville, I got to know the Tragically Hip’s music well and it slowly grew on me. It wasn’t until I saw them live in the summer of 2008, at a Big Music Fest, that I really got to understand why Gord Downie and the rest of the band had such a massive fan base.
That live show made me a fan of Gord Downie, the way he owned the stage and played to the crowd. He was definitely an underrated front man.
Gord Downie and The Secret Path
The Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund to support reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. The Fund is a part of Downie’s legacy and commitment to Canada’s First Peoples. Chanie Wenjack is a young boy who died trying to escape a residential school, who is at the centre of Downie’s Secret Path project.
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