The Tragically Hip’s Surviving Members Reunite to Pay Tribute to a Canadian Icon, Tease New Projects – Rolling Stone

When the Tragically Hip performed their closing present on Aug. 20, 2016, on the sold-out Rogers Ok-Rock Centre within the group’s native Kingston, Ontario, bassist Gord Sinclair stood onstage in awe of the second — questioning what the longer term held for the larger-than-life Canadian rock band.

“There was a deep reference to the folks, and as we progressed on that final tour, [lead singer Gord Downie] received stronger and stronger. By the point it received to the final present, it was identical to, ‘We needs to be enjoying extra,’” Sinclair tells Rolling Stone. “It was the viewers, it was the ability of the music — that very actual, emotional connection between the group, the efficiency, and the viewers.”

Sadly, that night time in Kingston — nationally televised on the Canadian Broadcast Firm (CBC) to a viewership of tens of millions — could be the final time Sinclair, Downie, guitarists Rob Baker and Paul Langlois, and drummer Johnny Fay would carry out collectively.

“After we performed that final present, our complete profession got here into focus — every part that we’d been via, being within the band, after which we did this cross-country tour [to say goodbye],” Fay says. “After which, the very subsequent day, this tempest moved in and simply washed every part away, placing every part out of focus.”

Downie, the band’s charismatic lead singer, was recognized with terminal mind most cancers in 2015 and revealed the information in Might 2016. The Hip launched into a closing tour that culminated with the curtain name in Kingston, Ontario. Just a little greater than a 12 months after that efficiency, Downie succumbed to his sickness on Oct. 17, 2017. He was 53.

“My dad did an interview the day after Gord died, and one of many issues he stated seems in hindsight,” Langlois says. “The query was, ‘What do you suppose it’s going to be like for the blokes? Are they going to maintain doing music?’ [My dad says], ‘They’ll maintain doing music, however their coronary heart won’t ever be in it.’”

Arguably Canada’s best rock band, and one in all its most cherished musical exports, the Tragically Hip transcended what it meant to not solely entertain and embrace an viewers, but additionally the flexibility to harness the sheer energy of rock & roll — this drive of nature for constructive, tangible change contained of their lyrical aptitude and live-wire stage presence.

“We needed to be engaged. I at all times felt my job was to have a greater time than anybody else within the constructing,” Baker says. “And if I’ve a good time, different individuals are going to have a good time, and I believe everybody [in the band] approached it that means — it was an amazing rollercoaster journey onstage.”

Since Downie’s dying, the band had solely reunited as soon as, backing Canadian indie-pop singer Feist through the televised 2021 Juno Awards. Performing in an empty Massey Corridor in Toronto whereas Covid-19 protocols have been in impact, the ensemble ran via the Hip’s “It’s a Good Life If You Don’t Weaken,” a nod to the group being honored with the Juno Humanitarian Award that night time.

“It’s all very acquainted, very long-standing associates. It’s only a comfy place to be with these guys,” Baker says in reference to being onstage together with his bandmates once more. “You slip in like no time handed and also you keep it up as for those who have been hanging out the day earlier than. That’s sort of the way in which we’re.”

The band’s remaining members not too long ago shocked everybody by reuniting as soon as once more. This time on the Nationwide Arts Centre in Ottawa on Sept. 16 for a tribute to Buffy Sainte-Marie, the massively influential singer-songwriter and Indigenous artist.

“[Tonight] was a extremely nice, wholesome step to enjoying once more,” Fay tells Rolling Stone after the efficiency, taped for broadcast on Sept. 30. “And it’s necessary for us to do this. It honors the legacy of the band, it honors Gord. [He] would have been closely concerned in [tonight].”

The surviving members of the Tragically Hip reunited onstage with the songwriter William Prince to pay tribute to Buffy Sainte-Marie. Credit score: Ming Wu*

Backing rising Indigenous singer-songwriter William Prince, the Hip soared via Sainte-Marie’s 1964 protest tune “Now That the Buffalo’s Gone.” The live performance, Starwalker: A Celebration of the Songs, Music, and Lifetime of Buffy Sainte-Marie, aired nationally on the CBC as a part of the second annual Nationwide Day for Reality and Reconciliation — Canada’s vacation to acknowledge the brutal legacy of the Canadian Indian residential college system.

“The Indigenous difficulty bugged [Gord Downie] since he was a child. We weren’t actually educated about it [at the time], nevertheless it bugged him,” Langlois tells Rolling Stone backstage on the NAC. “He would carry it up, whilst youngsters, ‘There’s one thing improper up there. We must always all be associates and they need to have the identical possibilities we do.’”

From a younger age, Downie felt the profound urge to face up for many who confronted injustice and felt unvoiced, one thing that led to his lifelong campaign, personally and professionally, to battle for the Indigenous folks of Canada and shine a highlight on the atrocities dedicated towards them.

“Gord was within the music scene in Toronto and received concerned in [environmental charities] at first. He gained lots of expertise on how you can get issues achieved, what to deal with, how you can write about them, what to say,” Langlois notes. “He learn so much and he noticed so much. There was actually a Canadian bent to [his words], however lots of the time he was on the lookout for an issue, not celebrating.”

“I believe it was Gord’s pure bent, lyrically. He was by no means a soapbox man. He was an artwork man. He was an activist via poetry,” Sinclair provides. “He was a courageous man. When he noticed one thing that was improper, he’d get up. Throughout our travels, he was meticulously taking notes — a few of them turned poems, some postcards to the children, a bunch of them turned songs.”

Within the 5 years since Downie left this world, there’s been so much happening within the Tragically Hip interior circle. In June, the recording Stay on the Roxy: Might 3, 1991 was unleashed, with the thirtieth anniversary rerelease of the Hip’s seminal album Totally Fully to hit the streets this fall, which features a one-day screening of the band’s 1993 tour documentary Heksenketel in choose Canadian theaters on Oct. 5.

The Tragically Hip formally fashioned in Kingston in 1984 when childhood associates Sinclair and Baker met Downie in highschool and ultimately left their respective bands to cement the nucleus of the group. Fay and Langlois joined quickly after. Backed by a meat-and-potatoes rock band, Downie proved to be a susceptible songwriter whose tough edges and devil-may-care perspective mixed elements of fellow Canadian legends Neil Younger, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, and Gordon Lightfoot.

Phrase unfold shortly concerning the group’s mesmerizing stay reveals, however successful over American audiences proved tough. Nonetheless, they performed large arenas again residence and managed to earn a following north of the I-90 hall within the States, at all times working to develop their viewers irrespective of how small the venue.

“We at all times had that big killer mentality from our life on the street. We realized how you can play the small rooms. We at all times aspired to greatness,” Sinclair says. “We performed lots of empty rooms on lots of empty nights. So, you be taught lots of humility, particularly being in Canada. You don’t take something as a right. You discover ways to play on a Tuesday night time to a half-empty crowd.”

The Tragically Hip gained some worldwide prominence with an look on the ill-fated Woodstock ‘99 in addition to a 2002 efficiency for Queen Elizabeth II when she visited Canada. In complete, they’d gather 17 Juno Awards, together with Entertainer of the Yr and Group of the Yr, with three wins in every class. 9 of the band’s albums reached Quantity One on the Canadian charts, alongside quite a few radio hits. They have been the largest promoting band in Canada from 1996 to 2016 and stay well-liked on streaming companies.

“It’s clearly very heartwarming, and in addition very unhappy to hearken to us as younger males, listening to Gord’s voice, and remembering these days, how lucky we have been to have one another,” Sinclair says of the Stay on the Roxy launch. “We have been a decent band, and Gord was simply depraved.”

On the NAC look for Sainte-Marie, a movie crew was onsite to comply with the band. Spearheaded by Downie’s brother, filmmaker Mike Downie, the footage can be a part of an upcoming documentary sequence on the Hip, anticipated to be launched on Amazon Prime in 2024.

Mike and the remainder of the Hip are additionally closely concerned within the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund, which, based on its web site, “goals to construct cultural understanding and create a path towards reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.”

“I’m within the ‘by no means say by no means’ camp,” Sinclair says when requested if the Hip might get again collectively down the road. “However the Tragically Hip’s not the Tragically Hip with out Gord, you recognize? And, if I have been gone, I’m certain Gord would say the identical factor about me.”

“I wouldn’t rule out one other chapter,” Langlois provides. “It’s crossed our minds that we might jam. It took us some time to course of [Gord’s passing]. And we’re nonetheless processing, however the temper’s good.”

Sinclair says that the quartet nonetheless meets up at its long-time recording studio, the Bathhouse in Tub, Ontario, occasionally, and routinely hang around in-person or for enterprise conferences over Zoom.

“They’re my greatest associates,” Sinclair says. “Regardless that [Gord’s] gone, although the band isn’t collectively anymore, the music nonetheless has a extremely robust resonance with folks that’ll hopefully by no means go away. If we have been to do one thing down the street, if it was on the proper time and proper place, for the precise charitable group, I might do it in a heartbeat.”

The morning after the Sainte-Marie celebration, Baker is sitting on a sofa in a room on the Fairmont Château Laurier, a stone’s throw from the Nationwide Arts Centre. The luxurious resort is a far cry from these early days of the Hip not with the ability to afford a motel room on tour, ricocheting from coast-to-coast in an outdated van, hundreds of hard-earned miles throughout the huge, unforgiving panorama of Canada. However he doesn’t spend a lot time enthusiastic about the group’s legacy.

“That’s for another person to determine. We’ve written these songs, we’ve raised them, and we’ve despatched them out into the world on their very own,” he says. “A few of them are going to have good, profitable lives, and possibly youngsters of their very own. A few of them will find yourself within the ditch and be forgotten, and that’s most likely correctly, too. However all of them have their very own lives now. And, because the mother and father of the songs, we want them nicely — we take care of them, however they’re on their very own.”

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