For a Good Life We Just Might Have to Weaken

A number of years ago, I had the opportunity to see The Tragically Hip in concert. The timing was terrible. I was in the throes of depression and anxiety, and was not feeling particularly great. But I’d paid for the ticket, so I went. All I remember of that night was how much Gord Downie annoyed me, up there on that stage, so energetic – frenetically so – when I could barely muster enough energy to sit my butt in a seat and watch a concert for a couple of hours. Upon later reflection, it wasn’t The Hip’s performance that troubled me, it was myself, and I’ve wished I saw them at a better time in my life.

Today comes news that Gord Downie has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer at the age of 52. All I can hope for Mr. Downie is that he faces his illness with the same energy and vitality that he has always performed with.

Love them or hate them, the Tragically Hip are probably the most quintessentially Canadian band ever. From songs like Bobcaygeon to Wheat Kings to At the Hundredth Meridian, The Tragically Hip captured the Canadian experience in a way that few other popular bands have.  After the announcement this morning, there were myriad comments on the band’s Facebook page and other social media, but the most succinct one was probably the one which claimed that Downie is Canada’s lead singer. His is a unique voice, like all of ours, and despite one bad live show (my fault, not theirs), they formed a large part of the soundtrack of my late teens and early 20s. For what it’s worth, although I love the classics:Wheat Kings, Ahead by a Century, Bobcaygeon, New Orleans is Sinking and Courage, my favourite song by The Hip is probably It’s a Good Life if You Don’t Weaken. Its lyrics are especially poignant today:

When the colour of the night
And all the smoke for one life
Gives way to shaky movements
Improvisational skills
A forest of whispering speakers
Let’s swear that we will
Get with the times
In a current health to stay
Let’s get friendship right
Get life day-to-day
In the forget-yer-skates dream
Full of countervailing woes
Its diverse-as-ever seen
Proceeding on a need-to-know
In a face so full of meaning
As to almost make it glow
For a good life we just might have to weaken
And find somewhere to go
Go somewhere we’re needed
Find somewhere to grow
Grow somewhere we’re needed

Godspeed, Mr. Downie. I wish you comfort and fortitude (and yes, Courage) in this last leg of your tour of this crazy place we call planet Earth. Thank you for lending Canada your voice.


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