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The Best of the Tragically Hip Mixtape

Posted on 24 May 2016


It was the summer of 2009 when I finally “got” the Tragically Hip. I don’t know how it happened, but it was like a switch went off in my brain and they went from being an OK band that was played on radio more often than I thought made sense to being One Of the Greatest Bands Of All Time.

A lot of other people I know who are Hip fans had the same thing happen. They didn’t really care for them and then, suddenly… they did. Trying to explain why you like them to someone who doesn’t is kind of a fruitless exercise, because until that switch goes off, no amount of rationalizing is going to make it happen.

And yet, with the news that singer Gord Downie has terminal cancer and the Hip are coming to an end, I’m going to give it a try.

Aside from their musical skills, which I’ll place up there with any all-time-greatest rock group, the Tragically Hip helped teach me the difference between being from Canada and *being Canadian*.

Lots of celebrities are Canadian, but only in the sense that they happened to be born here. Nothing in their music/output really reflects that background, and more often than not they wind up moving somewhere else as soon as they are able. The fact that they are Canadian is little more than fodder for one of those “secretly Canadian!” clickbait articles.

Then there’s the celebrities who are from Canada and wear it on their sleeve, in a kitschy, annoying way. Their version of embracing Canadian identity is making jokes about maple syrup and hockey and being nice. A lot of the time, these are also people who no longer live in Canada but have found it to be a good marketing exercise.

The Tragically Hip make no secret about being Canadian but it comes out naturally, not by yelling about toques and poutine. They tell Canadian stories and make Canadian references because it works in their songs, not because it will get them media coverage from journalists writing about the Canadian angle.

@mattgurney there’s something very rawly Canadian about them, but it’s never layered with the same pretensions like so much Canadiana.

— robert hiltz (@robert_hiltz) May 24, 2016

So, yeah, that’s what I appreciate about the Tragically Hip, aside from the fact they are a great band with great songs. And like many other Canadians, I’m incredibly sad to learn singer Gord Downie has terminal cancer and also incredibly grateful they will be giving us one last chance to see them live. This morning, I pulled out my old CD jacket and found the two-disc “Best of the Tragically Hip” compilation I made for myself back in that summer of 2009 and  was on constant rotation when I still had a CD player on my car. I’ve turned it into a Spotify playlist, and added a few more tracks to include the releases from the past seven years and some older gems that have grown on me in the intervening years. If you care about this, tracks 1-20 (“Blow At High Dough” to “Summer’s Killing Us”) are disc one, tracks 21-39 (“New Orleans Is Sinking” to “Ahead by a Century”) are disc two, and the remainder is disc three.


Spotify. Apple Music.

Filed under: Canada, music

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