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Gord Downie: Musician at work

The Story

The Tragically Hip is one of Canada's favourite bands, selling out arenas with music powered by driving guitars and thoughtful lyrics. In concert, lead singer Gord Downie doesn't just perform the songs: he inhabits them, always in motion and in the moment. In 1999, as the Hip launch a tour to promote the album Phantom Power, Downie tells reporter Laurie Brown it took just one rehearsal before the band felt like a success. "You come out of the place with a secret in your heart," says Downie. "And that's success, you know, feeling that you've got something in store."

Medium: Television
Program: On The Arts
Broadcast Date: Feb. 11, 1999
Guest: Gordon Downie
Reporter: Laurie Brown
Duration: 6:24

Did You know?

• The Tragically Hip were founded in Kingston, Ont., in 1983; three of the band's members were students at the city's Queen's University. The band members are: Rob Baker, guitar; Gord Downie, vocals; Johnny Fay, drums; Paul Langlois, guitar; and Gord Sinclair, bass.


• A video called Elephant Parts, by Mike Nesmith of the 1960s TV band The Monkees, inspired the name the Tragically Hip.


• All members of the band share songwriting credits, but the lyrics are written by Downie. In 2001 he published Coke Machine Glow, a book of poetry.


• In Canada, the Hip have enjoyed number-one songs, bestselling albums and sold-out arena concerts, but have been largely unable to translate that success to the United States. In 1995 they appeared on Saturday Night Live but no album of theirs has reached higher than number 142.


• By 2004, Downie had long since tired of the question of why the Hip never really broke in the United States. "I could do hours on this subject," he said in an interview in the Toronto Sun. "You know, why not? Why isn't Canadian film big down there? Is Paul Martin big down there? Margaret Atwood? Who are you comparing us to? The Barenaked Ladies? Our music is entirely different. Nickelback? Avril? Because of the people we are and the music we make, we get the success we deserve."


• The Tragically Hip album Fully Completely placed fifth on a list of top 100 Canadian albums based on a poll of 600 music journalists, musicians, DJs and retailers in 2007. (Neil Young's Harvest was first, followed by Joni Mitchell's Blue; After the Goldrush, also by Young, was third, and The Band's Live from Big Pink was fourth). Three other Tragically Hip albums also appeared in the top 100. 



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