Written by Layne Mitchell

Saturday, the Tragically Hip will perform in Edmonton for The. Very. Last. Time. I felt that given the band’s cultural significance, a proper eulogy was merited.

With 13 albums to their credit and a career spanning 32 years, the guys in the Tragically Hip have scuffs in their road-cases older than most Canadian bands. The Kingston, Ont., band released its final album last month, ending the longest gap between albums in its history. Sadly, it wasn’t because the band was losing enthusiasm for its craft or slowing down due to old age. In May of this year, music fans were devastated by news that front-man Gord Downie has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.


That admission on its own might have left most of us assuming Gord would quietly disappear, leaving the band to slowly fade from relevance. To our surprise though, they announced another tour. While spending what precious time Gord has left saying goodbye to fans is a selfless move, I think there’s something more significant that we’re overlooking. This final tour is evidence that there is nothing Gord would rather be doing with his time. He’s not some tired, old, has-been, noodling away in a studio trying to rehash former glory or earn one final paycheque; he’s an artist who, even when faced with death, continues to be inspired by Canadian life.

Rush, Bryan Adams, Nickelback — these are certainly bands that brought Canada’s music to the rest of the world. Tragically Hip was the group that took on the less glamorous, more altruistic role of bringing Canada’s music to Canadians. Tragically Hip has spent the past three decades humbly holding up a mirror to show us ourselves in a different light.

hip 80s

While popular with Canadians, that mission was certainly less popular outside our borders. The band’s mere eight million career albums sold is evidence of that noble pursuit. Chad Kroeger could probably sell more copies of a recording of himself farting into a microphone. Nothing against Chad (or his smelly microphone), just stating that the Tragically Hip is a completely different animal. Few have made the contributions to Canada’s music that Tragically Hip has.

The group’s final tour includes two shows at Rexall Place July 28 and 30. Tragically Hip’s final performance will be in the band’s hometown of Kingston on Aug. 20. The set will be broadcast on CBC television, Radio One, Radio Two and online.

– Layne Mitchell

Filed under: farewell, Gord Downie, Rexall Place, tragically hip