Published on November 14th, 2017 | by Alan Cross1
An American Tries to Figure Out the Tragically Hip
If you’re Canadian, you understand why the passing of Gord Downie was such a big deal. But if you’re on the outside looking in, you’re probably a little confused how the death of a rock singer could plunge an entire nation into a prolonged period of mourning.
UPROXX was wondering the same thing and sought to find some answers.
On October 17, Gord Downie died from brain cancer, sparking widespread mourning in his native country of Canada. The Tragically Hip frontman’s death prompted an emotional tribute from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who attended the Hip’s final concert in August 2016, and even moved one member of Canadian parliament to insist that Downie be granted a state funeral. Across the country for days afterward, there were candlelit vigils in his honor. For Canadians, this wasn’t just the death of a beloved rock star. It was the end of a universally respected national institution.
For Americans, this might all seem a little hard to understand. The Tragically Hip had only a small cult audience in this country, briefly attaining a high profile in 1995 in the wake of a performance on Saturday Night Live, which booked the Hip at the insistence of the Hip’s friend, Dan Aykroyd.
Why did a band that was so huge in Canada, with a singer-songwriter who is essentially that country’s equivalent of Bruce Springsteen, have such a minimal impact in the US? And what have us Americans missed out on?