Tonight and every night on The Tragically Hip’s cross-Canada tour, frontman Gord Downie will stand alone at the end of the night looking out at the crowd – waving, blowing kisses, bowing, giving the thumbs up. He’ll take a long last look at the audience – and exit the stage.
Downie concluded The Hip’s first two of fifteen concerts in this way. He needs to.
An Unjust Bit Of Thievery
Downie, co-founder of one of Canada’s most loved bands – fondly known as “The Hip” – knows every concert exit is poignant because this will be his farewell tour in what has could be his too short career. Downie was diagnosed with incurable brain cancer earlier this year.
The diagnosis was a double whammy as Downie’s wife faced her own battle with breast cancer in 2012. She has recovered. The Globe’s Marsha Lederman defiantly terms Downie’s cancer, “a real robbery – an immensely unjust bit of thievery.”
I didn’t know I was a fan of the band. I tend to miss song titles – I just know what I like when I hear it on the radio. I’ve always liked The Hip tunes, “Little Bones,” “Bobcaygeon” and “Ahead By A Century.” Who knew.
There is a lot to like about Downie beyond his music, especially the will, determination, and grace he’s calling upon for this tour.
Now For Plan A
The Hip formed up in 1984 – a group of high school buddies – Downie, guitarist Rob Baker, drummer Johnny Fay, bassist Gord Sinclair and a newcomer, guitarist Paul Langlois. They’ve won fourteen Juno awards and the hearts of devoted fans along the way. They’ve also faced their challenges – none moreso than Downie.
Downie described his struggles with his wife’s cancer to George Stroumboulopulos, “There were a lot of emotions. You know, anger, fear, impatience. Impatience is a big one. Love. You’re just clamoring to help… It was hard to write because that felt, somehow, I don’t know, not right.”
Her battles had a major influence on Downie when he began to write again for the album Now for Plan A featuring the song “The Lookahead.” He termed the effort and creativity in writing the songs as “rafter scratching.”
The Lookahead is about a look his wife would give that silently assured him, “Its gonna be alright. You know everythings gonna be alright. No matter what.”
I go back to the brusque nurse
Her heart a bad cake in a melting box
I thought you should know it’s no worse
Her blood is still clear and sanguineous
You weigh a snowflake
The glamour of the sky
Past perfect eyes
And hearts leapt
To give me the lookahead
C’mon honey just gimme that lookahead.
Its Gonna Be Alright
It seems like so many – too many – of those close to me are needing their own lookahead. Cathy, Katie, Linda, Carolyn, Cindy, Kathy – and Josephine who passed away on July 28th at age 53 from cancer. They are wives, moms, sisters, daughters, grandmothers. Believers.
One refrain has echoed over and over from each one – “I don’t know how I would get through this without my faith in Jesus.” They feel assured everything is “gonna be alright.”
As Gord stands in front of his fans for each final bow, I hope he senses the presence of his Creator and knows that He is fan of his.
He made the man who makes the music.
He has a Plan A.
APPLICATION: Are you a fan of the Hip? Please leave a comment below.
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