Gord Downie: A Musician’s Perspective

First of all, let’s just go ahead and address the fact that its been nearly six years to the day since I’ve posted anything on the BarCode Blog. The reason is simple; when you write for a living, the last thing you want to do when you get home is continue to compose.

When I left my creative writing job at Blackburn Radio, Inc. in June of 2013, I promised myself that once we were settled back in Brantford, I’d resume activity with my virtual pen.

Several months ago (more like ’18-24 months ago’), I suddenly (more like ‘slowly’) realized that I had yet to follow through on my personal promise and began searching for a suitable subject on which to make my triumphant return, but to no avail.

This past weekend, the Tragically Hip and Gord Downie specifically, provided some much-needed inspiration for not only myself, but an entire generation of bloggers.

If you’re Canadian, you undoubtedly know the story, but please bear with me as I bring any potential international readers quickly up to speed.

For the better part of three decades, the Hip, along with Barenaked Ladies and Blue Rodeo, have been one of, if not the most beloved band in Canada, enjoying the same longevity, but more popularity.

Last December, lead singer and poet Gord Downie was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of incurable brain cancer, which often claims its victims in less than 12 months. The official announcement came on May 24th of this year.

Rather than cancel the already booked Man Machine Poem tour, Downie and the band embraced the challenge and following his going public regarding the cancer, announced that this cross-Canada venture would be their last.

Starting in Victoria, British Columbia, the trek also included 3 nights in Toronto and came to an emotional close on Saturday evening in their hometown of Kingston, Ontario.

It was televised live on the CBC, for which the network was praised, as they not only interupted expensive Olympic coverage, but went completely commercial-free for the 3 hour duration of the concert, which as everyone knows, is a huge loss in advertising revenue.

There are hundreds of online articles dedicated to the band’s bravery, live coverage, cultural and national significance, tributes, etc. and so forth, but that’s not the point of this particular piece.

Truth be told, I have never really considered myself much of a Hip fan. I do enjoy a number of their hits – ‘New Orleans is Sinking’, ‘Fifty Mission Cap’, ’38 Years Old’, ‘At the Hundredth Meridian’, ‘Wheat Kings’, plus a handful of others.

My favourite is ‘Bobcaygeon’, which we have played live for years.

Just because I’m not a superfan, doesn’t mean I cannot appreciate the band, Gord or his battle on another level. I have watched with despair and sadness over the last few months as the news broke, the tickets sold and the crowds came.

My intial reaction was the same as everyone else – utter shock.

Once that wore off (to some degree), I began contemplating the much bigger picture, perhaps from a slightly different angle than the general public.

Not only does this talented individual have to say goodbye to his wife and children, extended family and friends, but also to his bandmates and a musical legacy that he helped to create.

As a band founder and leader myself, that’s a hard pill to swallow.

I’ll do my best to illustrate my point.

Most of us have an extracurricular activity that we enjoy and excel at, whether it’s dramatic or visual arts, music, crafts, cooking or sports – something that has been your mainstay through not only the good times, but the bad as well. If you’re one of the fortunate few, maybe your interest has even translated into a part-time or full-time career.

Now imagine being forced to abandon your passion prematurely at a time when there is still so much you wish to do with it. Portraits you wish to paint. Songs you wish to write. Recipes you wish to create.

You get the idea.

Last week BarCode celebrated its 13th anniversary and while we have accomplished more than I could have ever dreamed during that time, I feel that we are only part of the way through our journey and there’s still much left to experience.

I will reiterate that I have never really considered myself much of a fan, but it is the afore-mentioned perspective, coupled with the strength to rally together for one last tour – a proper farewell – that has earned my everlasting admiration and respect.

When it comes time for our final bow, I only hope that we leave the stage with as much consideration and respect as the Tragically Hip.

God speed and much love, Gord.

‘I’ve got to go. It’s been a pleasure doing business with you.’

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2 Responses to “Gord Downie: A Musician’s Perspective”

  1. Patrice Poirier Says:

    Please continue writing. This is a good piece.

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