The Tragically Hip
o many Canadians they are seen as about as iconic to Canada as maple syrup, ice hockey, 'touque' style hats, poutine and politicians who offer their middle finger while announcing 'fuddle duddle'. Rarely touring outside of Canada and virtually unknown anywhere else, The Tragically Hip have become a staple on Canada's radios. Their music ranges across many subjects but in their 30 years of recording they have mentioned Canada, its people, its landscape and its news events over 250 times!
The act started in 1984 at Kingston Collegiate in Kingston, Ontario, where singer Gord Downie, Gord Sinclair (bass) and Rob 'Bobby' Baker (guitar) were students. Guitarist Paul Langlois joined in 1986; saxophonist Davis Manning left that same year. They took their name from a skit in the Michael Nesmith movie Elephant Parts.
Until the mid 80s they only performed in small music venues around Ontario until being discovered by then-'MCA' President Bruce Dickinson (no relation to the Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden) at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto. They were then signed to a long-term record deal, and recorded the self-titled EP The Tragically Hip. The album produced two singles, Small Town Bring-Down and Highway Girl.
They followed up with 1989's Up to Here, which offered them four singles, Blow at High Dough, New Orleans Is Sinking, Boots or Hearts, and 38 Years Old. All four becoming staples of radio play in Canada. Road Apples followed in 1991, producing three more singles (Little Bones, Twist My Arm and Three Pistols) and reaching No. 1 on Canadian record charts.
The act was now entering into their most iconic period with the arrival of Fully Completely in 1992, offering the singles Locked in the Trunk of a Car, Courage and At the Hundredth Meridian, a track that still receives heavy radio rotation to this day. The album was more rock and less blues influence than their previous offerings.
While Fully Completely began their exploration of deeper themes and became highly revered, many critics consider their next album Day for Night (1994) to be the acts best effort. That album offered top selling singles that enjoy radio play to this day including, Nautical Disaster and Grace Too.
Trouble at the Henhouse followed in 1996, producing five singles, including the smash hit Ahead by a Century.
In 1998, the band released Phantom Power, which produced five more hit singles. The album won the 1999 Juno Awards for Best Rock Album and Best Album Design. The single, Bobcaygeon (named after a town in Ontario), won the Juno Award for Single of the Year in 2000. The album went certified platinum three times over in Canada.
2000 saw the release of Music @ Work, the self-titled single once again saw the band on the radio. It won the 2001 Juno Award for Best Rock Album. The album featured back-up vocals from Julie Doiron on a number of tracks, and reached No. 1 on the Canadian Billboard Charts.
In 2002, In Violet Light, became certified platinum in Canada. Later that year, the band made a cameo appearance in the Paul Gross film Men with Brooms, playing a curling team from their hometown of Kingston.
On October 10, 2002, The Tragically Hip performed two songs, It's a Good Life If You Don't Weaken and Poets, as part of a command performance for Queen Elizabeth II. In 2003, the band recorded a cover of Black Day in July, a song about the 1967 12th Street Riot in Detroit, on Beautiful: A Tribute to Gordon Lightfoot.
In Between Evolution was released in 2004 in the No. 1 position in Canada.
At the 92nd Grey Cup (Canadian football final) held November 21, 2004, the band provided the halftime entertainment in front of a packed house at Frank Clair Stadium in Ottawa.
In October 2005, radio stations all over Canada temporarily stopped playing New Orleans Is Sinking, out of sensitivity to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, which had devastated the city that September. However it received considerable pirate radio and relief site play and gained some notoriety and praise in New Orleans due to its attitudinal proximity to the city's culture.
On November 1, 2005, the band released a double CD, double DVD box set, Hipeponymous, including all of their singles and music videos to date, also including a backstage documentary called Macroscopic, an animated short film entitled "The Right Whale", two brand new songs (No Threat/The New Maybe), a full-length concert from November 2004 That Night in Toronto, and a 2-CD greatest hits collection Yer Favourites (selected on-line by 150,000 fans). On November 8, 2005, Yer Favourites and That Night In Toronto were released individually.
World Container (2006) was released, being notably produced by Bob Rock, produced four singles, and reached the No. 1 in Canada.
We Are the Same (2009) produced three more hit singles.
In October 2014, Fully Completely was re-released as a remastered deluxe edition, including two bonus tracks, a vinyl edition and a recording of a live show. To celebrate and promote the re-release, the band toured Canada and the United States from January to October 2015.
Now for Plan A (2012) and Man Machine Poem (2016) would round out their discography and probably prove to be their last for on May 24, 2016 the band announced that Gord Downie had been diagnosed with a very aggressive terminal brain cancer and that the forthcoming tour for that summer would be their last.
That last tour would end on August 20, 2016 in their hometown of Kingston, Ontario. The venue was packed beyond capacity, including the public square, Springer Market Square, outside. Indeed, all the venues on the tour were full, including three shows in Toronto alone, leaving many people unable to purchase tickets and a massive controversy over the legalities of ticket 'scalpers'. That final 2 hour and 45 minute concert was broadcasted at 8:30PM (Eastern) live and commercial free in its entirety on Canada's national state-owned broadcasting company CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) on all formats to the entire country (over the air and cable television, satellite, radio and internet); elevating the band into almost national hero status. Electronic billboards in public squares as well as pubs across the country also tuned into the show. The Prime Minister of Canada was present. The broadcast preempted the 2016 Olympics that would have otherwise been scheduled for that time slot, allowing the nation to say 'good bye'; it was one of the biggest broadcasts in the country for the decade.
On October 17th, 2017 Gord Downie would fall to his cancer and pass away.
Footnote: An interesting bit of trivia. While this site (Diskery) was being reconstructed between 2013-2015 offline it was code-named 'Meridian 100 Project'. Indeed, inside the computer code that makes Diskery run is a function identified as 'meridian100()' that calls a routine to handle the website-to-database interface; each time you make a request to view a biography it runs silently in the background. Both code-names were named after the 'Hip' song, 'At the 100th Meridian' with the lyric, 'At the 100th meridian ... where the great plains begin!' In a way the name pays tribute to the this excellent song, but also to the idea that with this instruction, access to the vast database of knowledge begins.