Following the news of Gord Downie’s brain cancer, we’re doing a group post of Tragically Hip Things. Each will take their own approach, surely.
This is not a eulogy. This is a celebration, and a message of strength, power and love to Gord, his family, his band-mates, and his friends.
For my post, I am not choosing my Top Ten moments (haha as if I could keep it to a list of ten, get real!), and I will not be recounting my tales of getting to see the band perform live (I’ve already done that, in these pages).
Instead, I’ve chosen to focus on Gord the poet, the master of words. However far out there he’s gone, he’s made everything he sang about us, our lives, our country. It’s always like he’s giving back to us, thanking us, when it seems like we’re the ones thanking him.
I’ve chosen some of my favourite stanzas and one-liners from his lyrics. Believe me, this is the tip of the iceberg. So many times, over all these years, I’ve found myself going back and re-listening to the endless examples of greatness in his writing. I catch myself singing along to songs and then I realize just how brilliantly put-together the words really are (let alone the music).
Ahead By A Century
First thing we’d climb a tree
And maybe then we’d talk
Or sit silently
And listen to our thoughts
With illusions of someday
Cast in a golden light
No dress rehearsal,
This is our life
No dress rehearsals. We go every day into this life and do our best. It’s so easy to get on auto pilot, to let all the things you have to do slow you down or become negative. Instead, go into it knowing it’s what you want to do, what you’ve chosen to do and, yes, what you have to do, and try to do it with some grace and style. There’s no second chance at any of this. This isn’t just a song lyric, it’s a friggin’ manifesto.
they add, “you can’t be fond of living in the past,
’cause if you are then there’s no way that you’re gonna last”
And for damned sure. Live this moment and make the next one better. Go forward like that.
Use It Up
Use it up, use it all up
Don’t save a thing for later
Quoting Raymond Carver, this line has been the KMA tagline (at the top of the screen) for quite a while now. I love this thinking.
It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken
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…
…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)
I’m sure you’re sensing a theme, here…
If there’s a goal that everyone remembers
It was back in old seventy two
We all squeezed the stick and we all pulled the trigger
And all I remember is sitting beside you
You said you didn’t give a fuck about hockey
And I never saw someone say that before
You held my hand and we walked home the long way
You were loosening my grip on Bobby Orr
Isn’t it amazing anything’s accomplished
When the little sensation gets in your way
Not one ambition whispering over your shoulder
Isn’t it amazing you can do anything
He nails hockey, relationships, life in this country, philosophy… Every Canadian who read those words just sang it in their heads, guaranteed.
For a girl I know it’s Mother’s Day
Her son has gone alee
And that’s where he will stay
The wind on the weathervane
Tearing blue eyes sailor mean
As Falstaff sings a sorrowful refrain
For a boy in Fiddler’s Green
A great song. And I really do know someone (my Mom) for whom September 17 is Mother’s Day (my sister’s birthday). If I’m the son, though, I don’t know how far alee I’d say I’ve gone… 🙂
Don’t tell me what the poets are doing
Don’t tell me that they’re talking tough
Don’t tell me that they’re anti-social
Somehow not anti-social enough, all right
and then later…
Don’t tell me what the poets are doing
On the street and the epitome of vague
Don’t tell me how the universe is altered
When you find out how he gets paid, all right
Seems a natural, for this post. I love how he sums things up so succinctly, seemingly so easily. Rough and tumble, right on the edge at all times. Every listen, I know I’m in the presence of a master.
Sometimes he jumped from poetry to something so common, still made powerful…
The Golden Rim Motor Inn
Soft water and a colour TV
I’m so consumed with the shape I’m in
I can’t enjoy the luxury
She says, “Why are you partial to that Playboy con?
When you can see me naked any time you want?”
If I had loads of money to make me tame and sour
I could pay you to remind of my baby by the hour
My goodness. So many writers would give anything for stanzas as real as that. And Gord’s got a career full of them…
He also does ennui really, really well..
I left your house this morning
About a quarter after nine
Could have been the Willie Nelson
Could have been the wine
When I left your house this morning
It was a little after nine
It was in Bobcaygeon, I saw the constellations
Reveal themselves one star at a time
Drove back to town this morning
With working on my mind
I thought of maybe quitting
I thought of leaving it behind
I went back to bed this morning
And as I’m pulling down the blind
Yeah, the sky was dull, and hypothetical
And falling one cloud at a time
And sometimes the ache was so real…
When all the poetry of the earth
Might be all there is
Might still have some worth, yeah
But I can’t dance to it
Honey, everything we need
Is on the other side of this feeling
Honey, right here underneath our feet
Under all the stars of the county everything we need
Sitting here at the Horton’s,
so you know this is important.
And every Canadian just nods…
I’ll be your friend, your last refuge
When things get weird
And weird breaks huge.
I’ll stroke your hair,
I’ll dry your cheeks
When failures come
And no one speaks
Yes yes yes.
And lastly, this one comes to mind because that’s where my mind is, with this news. I wanna stay positive. I do! But this crossed my mind as worthy of inclusion:
At The Hundredth Meridian
If I die of vanity, promise me, promise me
If they bury me some place I don’t want to be
You’ll dig me up and transport me, unceremoniously
Away from the swollen city breeze, garbage bag trees
Whispers of disease and the acts of enormity
And lower me slowly and sadly and properly
Get Ry Cooder to sing my eulogy
At the hundredth meridian (hundredth meridian)
At the hundredth meridian (you’re going to miss me)
At the hundredth meridian (trust me)
Where the great plains begin
I think this one thing is always supposed to stay
Oh this one thing doesn’t have to go away
For me, it isn’t ever gonna go away. None of it. I’m a lifer. Gord. The Hip. If it all falls apart tomorrow, I’ll be listening until I die. I could have listed a hundred more lines. They’re all of a sum total, the works of a great writer.
We’re with you, Gord.
All of you, your loved ones and friends, and this whole community and nation we call home.
Much love, strength, peace and power in these times.
I’ll always be listening.