I discovered The Tragically Hip’s music later than most Hip fans.
Of course, I knew their music from radio play in the 80s and 90s when I depended on radio stations for my music playlist, but it was the announcement of Gord Downie’s illness that so many of us stopped taking the group for granted, and paid closer attention.
And as I watch CBC’s Long Time Running, I’m reminded that I wasn’t paying close enough attention.
Last year, a small gathering at a neighbourhood friend’s house that included dinner and the evening watching the “Man Machine Poem” 2016 tour in Kingston, Ontario with millions of viewers.
Soon after, I downloaded my favourite songs that immediately went into high rotation on my iPod.
Gord brought Chanie Wenjack to my attention. Gord knew about Attiwapiskat long before I learned about the community’s living conditions from Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus, and he did what I wished I could, he publically called out Prime Minister on our government’s repugnant and unacceptable treatment of and inaction for First Nations across Canada.
Gord said it straight; he found the words that I never could; “we were trained our entire lives to ignore.”
I nearly met Gord once. He was reading from his book Coke Machine Glow for “100% Maple Verse,” a TV pilot program, in which I did an off-camera interview for Frame 30 Productions, in 2002.
Taking breaks from my technical writing gig at a bank downtown Toronto, I found myself on set with Souvankham Thammavongsa, Duke Redbird, and actor Leslie Nielsen, who read “In Flanders Fields” and got the laugh he was looking for when he set off a whoopee cushion when posing for a photo with the crew afterward.
I bought a copy of Gord’s book of poetry in anticipation of visiting the set, maybe having it autographed.
I can’t remember why I wasn’t able to attend (had I not been invited? was it a closed set?), but I do recall that the producer told me that Gord had said he did not think of himself as a poet.
If you know The Hip’s lyrics, you would probably disagree with Gord on that point. I do.
I discovered that too late.