Tuesday, 24 May 2016

We all know Gord Downie

This morning I woke at 6:30 to the sound of my new baby stirring in his bassinet.  When I brought him downstairs, I looked at my phone.  There was a single notification.  It was an email from @TheHipDotCom announcing Gord Downie's diagnosis with terminal brain cancer.

It took only a single breath before my mind flooded with the weight of this news; the weight of Gord Downie's voice in my life.  I was overwhelmed with how much I love this music, these lyrics, this band.  I'm what you call a true admirer... I'm a fan.

One look at twitter today and it's obvious that the rest of Canada feels exactly the same way.  The Tragically Hip is an emblem of our nation, a worthy representation of our pride.  Even if you're not a "fan" you hear this music wherever you are.  Gord's Downie's lyrics and unmistakable voice float in your consciousness.

Everyone who was struck by this news today - kicked in the stomach by it - knows Gord Downie.  He's our comrade.  We have followed him and his band for 30 years.  We have been to his shows and have sung alongside him.  He has written elaborate, honest, enduring stories about our hometowns, and we have walked with him on our streets.  We have heard these songs on our radios every single day, some of us for our entire lives.  Gord and his bandmates have driven across the country with us, they've strummed with us by the cottage campfire, they've lulled our babies to sleep and hyped them up for living room dance parties.  These songs are quoted at our kitchen tables.  These lyrics have become a national narrative, a collection of lore.  They literally tell the stories of our lives.

I have seen six Hip shows, including four in my Hometown, which is also their Hometown; two benefit concerts for someone else's cause; two in an arena perched on a street named for them; three standing in the grass on warm summer days; one at the National Arts Centre in fancy theatre seats that nobody sat in and that Gord walked across the backs of into he crowd; and one standing all by myself when Hubby got lost looking for beer.

These musicians are my neighbours. I have seen them at my movie theatre and been too shy to say hello. They have sat in the halls of my high school.  They have been awarded honourary degrees from my university. I danced the last dance of my wedding, in our Hometown, to their song.

Gord Downie's voice plays in my mind as a backdrop to my life.  His music is coming home. I feel like I know him, as we all do, and I am so, so sorry this is happening to him.

But let's not act like he's already dead.  His voice is still singing on every radio station and in every house in this country, and soon on as many stages as he can manage.  I intend to hear it.  I intend to add to my collection of powerful memories set to the tune of his music, with renewed appreciation; with will and determination, and grace, too.

A photo on my fridge for almost a decade.