What could possibly be be going through Gord Downie’s diseased head tonight as he prepares to take his final curtain call as the frontman for Canada in front of the ‘ home crowd’ ?
Downie – and his band, The Tragically Hip, are closing out a career prematurely due to Downie’s incurable brain cancer. The show ( broadcast nationwide at 8:30pm est on CBC) will be the final performance by the band as a unit. It will not be the final time fans can enjoy the music of the band live.
Thanks to video, YouTube and other recording formats, Gord Downie, his mates and the music will live on. This is the beauty to go along with the ugliness of the human condition. Of life.
Much like another Gord ( known affectionately as Mr. Hockey), Gord Downie exemplifies Canada. Through his toughness of dealing with a sickness which will leave a family fatherless and a nation without a conscience, his ability to touch souls no matter the language, Gord Downie will exit stage left as a Canadian hero.
Many ‘ common folk ‘ die with no fanfare. Celebrity tends to magnify and elevate problems into deity-like levels. Every life should be televised in it’s final episode. Every life is as important as the next. Every existence matters on some level.
Aside from the lyrics and the music which propelled ‘Canadiana’ to not only Canadians, what separates Downie is – his ‘Canadiana’. Unlike other Canadian music stars, Downie remained Canadian through and through. The Guess Who and Rush, Canada’s two main global exports – consciously or unconsciously, sold out. Reaching and appealing to Global audiences through trends, lyrics and marketing.
Planned or not – Downie and The Hip stayed indoors. Their only excursion outside during the cold winter months to the local hockey rink or the local bar. As Canadian as Maple Syrup. As syrupy as a Molson Canadian.
Over the years, throughout history in every aspect of life. In politics, science and art, it has been and always will be the true Canadians which endear to the nation’s conscience. Hockey’s Gretzky. A treasure – loved and owned by all Canadians pales in comparison to The Rocket and Mr. Hockey. Gretzky ‘lost an edge’ when he went to Los Angeles. Somehow, deep inside, regardless of the records and without fanfare or public humiliation – Gretzky became non Canadian to many. In contrast, playing most of his career outside of Canadian borders, Howe remained Canadian because he played like a Canadian. Fighting, scoring, leading and overcoming odds to play into his 60’s. Howe was tough and played the game like a true patriotic citizen no matter where he was.
Because of this, Howe was approachable in the eyes of Canadians. Just like Gord Downie.
Where Neil Peart, Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson attained God – like status and became people who were unapproachable in people’s minds, Downie is the guy at the end of the bar eating beer nuts. The smart guy whose ‘poetic’ advice was obtained through hours of talking with everyman during intermissions. Relaying the words and thoughts of doctors, machine operators and Zamboni drivers to the masses. Gord Downie educated ( scored ) with elbows up and in the corners fighting for the puck. Identifiable Canadian.
Justin Trudeau, Canada’s Prime Minister – overcame all critics and inexperience to become Prime Minister for one reason. He was more Canadian than Stephen Harper. Terry Fox lives on and gains God like status while Rick Hansen remains Rick Hansen. Fox was Canadian while Hansen seemed American.
Gord Downie may understand his role in Canadian history and his appeal. He may understand it more now as the ‘final’ tour winds down to the ‘final’ live appearance.
In true Canadian form he may not. In true Canadian form, all that is going through Downie’s mind is to put on a good show.