The CBC's decision to air the Tragically Hip's farewell concert Saturday was a stroke of public broadcasting genius. Better than almost any event one could imagine, it demonstrated the power of a national public broadcaster to bring a nation together to celebrate its shared values, to honour its prodigies, to connect.
The whole country came together. Not since Terry Fox have we seen such a strong example of how a Canadian could summon so much national camaraderie among the people.... All we had to do was sing along to songs we knew by heart, allow ourselves to feel the moment, let our tears express how we felt, let our fellow Canadians know we were all in this together, and then, as a nation, say goodbye to Gord Downie. The best part is we will never really say goodbye to The Tragically Hip. As long as we have kids, camping trips, road trips, backyard barbecues, headphones and private moments, we will never have to say goodbye.
The Tragically Hip has heavily influenced Canadians ever since the band first broke the scene 30 years ago, and The Hip's music continues to influence Canadians of all ages to this day. Canadian music has become synonymous with The Tragically Hip. In addition to their music being adored across the country, each of their 14 studio albums is laced with lyrics that pay homage to Canada.
While more fashionable bands have faded into musical footnotes, the Hip has enjoyed a 32-year career and domestic deification. But now the part of their name that has the most resonance as the Hip rocks its way across the nation one final time is "tragically." Not that you could tell from the surface euphoria onstage and in the stands as Gord Downie's incurable brain cancer took a backseat for a couple hours of communal rock catharsis during the band's 25-song concert at Toronto's Air Canada Centre.
As Gord Downie closed the show with kisses to the cheeks of his bandmates and nods of gratitude to the 20,000 fans in Vancouver, the courage the lead singer displayed overwhelmed me. It saddened me, too. Downie, my cultural hero, is battling the same awful disease -- glioblastoma multiforme -- that took the life of my wife, Julia Pelish-Brijbassi, 137 days ago.