August 20 – Hip’s Tragic Ending

The Tragically Hip lived upto their name, unfortunately.

On this night in 2016, about 11 million Canadians tuned in to CBC-TV to watch the final concert by the long-running Canadian rockers. They played a sold-out show at Rogers K-Rock Centre in their hometown of Kingston, Ontario, a college city around 150 miles east of Toronto. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in attendance (curious historic note- his dad, Pierre, was a fan of the Rolling Stones when he was Canada’s PM and his mom, Margaret caused a scandal by hanging out with the hard-partying Stones in the ’70s). The show was broadcast commercial-free on the national TV network as well as their radio arm, CBC Radio.

Tragically Hip were founded in 1984 and had a run as Canada’s most popular band, scoring 11 #1 albums and 16 Juno Awards (including three for Group of the Year) but failed to convert that into any major success in the U.S. or elsewhere. In fact, they only had one song – “Courage” – make the top 30 on any sort of American chart (the Alternative rock charts in 1993, when it made #16) and placed a measly #70 in New Zealand with one album… far better than any showing to the south in the U.S.

The band was touring under a cloud of gloom as lead singer Gord Downie had announced he was suffering from terminal brain cancer. Indeed it was, and he passed away from the cancer in Oct. 2017. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau read a eulogy in the Canadian Parliament, calling him “our buddy Gord, who loved this country with everything he had.”

Since that time, things have been quiet on their front, although the hometown junior hockey team, the Frotenacs honored him one time by wearing a special Tragically Hip jersey for the game. Downie had said they were working on some new songs shortly before his death and also have upto four albums worth of still unreleased material on tape.  Canadians hope “our buddy’s” buddies will put some of that out before long!

8 thoughts on “August 20 – Hip’s Tragic Ending

  1. badfinger20 (Max)

    Eleven million tv viewers…that is really something for a concert…wow 11 number 1’s is incredible in any country.
    Do you think they will ever release the unreleased music?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I don’t know… if they really have four albums worth, I’m sure some would be good enough to release and not seem like the bad half of Lennon’s ‘Milk and Honey’. there’d certainly be demand to hear it, so I would think in time they will.
      It really is impressive. I can’t fully explain it – I liked them but they sure captured something of the national spirit that’s hard to define. 11 million viewers would be good for an American TV show this decade, let alone in a country of 36 million.

      Like

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