The Music Never Dies

August 29, 2016 § 4 Comments

I’ve written in this space previously about what music means to me. Lately, I’ve also observed how it impacts friends and other people in Canada and around the globe.

Music can get muted on a sound system and performers head to the stage and studios of the afterlife. However, it can never be snuffed out.

In his 1971 song American Pie, Don McLean is said to be drawing reference to hearing of the untimely deaths of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson with the words … the Day the Music Died.

However, even 57 years after their deaths, people who enjoy early rock and roll music continue to play their tunes.

The power of music on a nation was evident on Saturday, Aug. 20. It will go down as a day I will always remember where I was and what I was doing.

Joyce and I were part of the 11.7 million viewers – about one-third of Canadians – who watched what is said to be the final concert of the iconic Canadian band, The Tragically Hip. It was telecast commercial free on CBC, our public broadcaster for those reading from outside our country.

Although there are talented Canadian performers who have achieved greater acclaim outside this country, I can’t think of another band the CBC would interrupt Summer Olympic coverage to present their concert live.

While the band will stop performing now with the announcement frontman Gord Downie has terminal brain cancer, the music of this venerable band will not die. If anything, a new generation of listeners will be created by the outpouring of love and appreciation for the group.

Andrew Jones, Owner of Checkered Owl, media manager for Tasman Jude, Caleb Hart and Black Indie agrees: “There is something eternal about GREAT music. Something that resonates with us for years after it was written. It’s that feeling you get when you turn on an old Ella Fitzgerald record, a Nirvana track, stream some Run-D.M.C., dust off your record where Dylan went electric and something captures our heart. The best music, the music of a band like The Tragically Hip, never dies, its honesty reverberates throughout the culture, it influences the next generation and ensures their music will be at work for a very long time.”

How important was this concert to me? Well, typically when a concert or music special that I want to watch is on TV and the Toronto Blue Jays or Montreal Canadiens are playing, I PVR it for later viewing. I’m also not one to forego a chance for a campfire with friends but I took a raincheck on an invitation.

This time, it was music that had to take precedence. I knew the concert wouldn’t be just the final appearance of The Tragically Hip. It would be a celebration of a band that told the story of Canada and Canadians over the years, References to communities and storylines from across the country are peppered through its albums.

When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau learned of Gord Downie’s diagnosis in May, he tweeted: “Gord Downie is a true original who has been writing Canada’s soundtrack for more than 30 years.”

Those words sum up my feeling for the band. Although I have a greater collection of music by several other artists, this band is really the one group that has always spoke the fabric of this country.

I told Jessica Allossery, a singer/songwriter friend in London, Ontario, that I was writing this blog. She was eager to share her feelings about music and the impact of the band.

“The Tragically Hip’s final show brought Canadians together as one. As we paid our respects in gratitude and awe, the band put on their bravest faces, to perform their incredible final show. What a night we will all remember! This is a band that will forever go down in history, as it united Canada with our love of music, story and soul.”

Music evolves. It heals, tells stories, cheers us or helps us understand a situation. It creates conversation.

I used the phrase, “turn the page” with a work colleague the other day and he exclaimed, “Metallica!” I reminded him the song was originally produced by Bob Seger. The workmate told me I was showing my age. I responded that I was simply showing my taste in good music.

How many songs of the Beatles have been remade over the years? Bruce Springsteen devoted a complete album to the music of folk artist Pete Seeger.

Gord Downie himself once said: “Music is the ultimate medium for expressions of love, and those expressions find a beautiful backdrop in the environment. Music is also a popular rallying point — at its central core, it’s a way for people to get in touch with the best parts of themselves and to voice the love in their hearts. And the environment is one of the great loves of our lives — when we think of the best parts of ourselves, the environment is always there, informing us, as a backdrop.”

Earlier in August, we attended the first-ever Bear Creek Music Festival in Grande Prairie. This three-day event brought musical acts from around the world and attracted thousands of music lovers from near and far.

The event was a success on several levels. First of all, we were treated to a first class event. I was introduced to acts that I’d not previously heard of and as much as fiddle music is not my favourite, I couldn’t help but tap my toes and join in on a standing ovation when a set featuring a collection of artists came to an end.

That’s the thing about music. Just like millions of Canadians were moved to join together for a televised concert, it has the power and energy to get us to do things we might not normally do.

The Beatles penned a song titled While My Guitar Gently Weeps. This final concert of The Tragically Hip had many Canadians doing just that.

Thank you, Gord and bandmates for all you have done to entertain and move us.



§ 4 Responses to The Music Never Dies

  • Blair Wade says:

    Great post on an unbelievable event. This concert, aside from being a truly unprecedented phenomenon, I think reflects greatly on who we are as a country and nation. Although I’ve never been a huge fan of the Hip, I’ve always had an appreciation for what they’ve contributed to our country’s arts and culture, as well as accepted them as a thread that ties across what seems like every Canadian programming platform. If the Hip are playing, I must be home. It’s compelling to me how hard and fast our country rallied around this band after Gord Downie’s news was revealed, although as a friend of mine said, “Don’t mistake being forced to grapple with how much something means to you for cultural bandwagoning.” But this speaks exactly to what makes The Tragically Hip exactly who they are: their ubiquity. I’m at a loss to try and name a band that has been able to speak to people of so many genres tastes, social groups, and personal backgrounds. Further, I’m hard-pressed to find anything that has united Canada so cohesively when we are are otherwise constantly wrestling with a fractious national identity. It’s increasingly interesting because when I think of hallmark Canadian artists I’m more likely to start with The Band, The Guess Who, Joni Mitchel, Drake, and on and on before I reach the Hip, despite what a constant they are to our cultural background. Perhaps, as many have noted, it is because they are uniquely and almost exclusively Canadian in their band history and fanbase. And perhaps that also is the ultimate definer of our Canadian national identity- “not American.”

  • davidolinger says:

    Great insight, Blair, and thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. Here is a link to some more food for thought about Gord Downie and his impact:

  • Rachel says:

    Great piece! Music impacts us in our daily lives. It can change our moods, start conversations, be used for expressions, advertisements, etc. Music is there for us when others may have turned their back. It’s the sound track to our lives and each sound track is personal.

  • Erin Stashko says:

    From this blog you wrote, David, it is evident that music creates a major impact on your life, as well as many other Canadians. Sat. Aug. 20th was, therefore an important date in your life; you and Joyce viewed on television, a live final concert of a great Canadian iconic band, The Tragically Hip, along with 11.7 million viewers.

    Gord Downie has since passed on and his music will never die. From the tremendous success stems a growth of additional followers – a new generation of listeners, as you suggested. Meanwhile, the outpouring of love and appreciation for The Tragically Hip and their music, will carry on infinitely. They are, after all, “All Things Canadian.” We, as Canadians, embrace our success stories – encouraging them with our love and pride that extends from west to east coast, all throughout Canada.

    Your blog describes the importance that music has in the lives of so many and you noted the significance of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s reflection: “Gord Downie is a true original who has been writing Canada’s soundtrack for more than 30 years.”

    In my own life, I often have snippets of song melodies and lyrics that course through my mind. Often, so frequently that I get the song phrase stuck in my head and it won’t leave for a long time. During those phases, I take it for what it is – sometimes there is something within the song that is demonstrative of something affecting my own life, and I need to analyze what the issue is and why the song is there in my head. The songs to me are expressions of various emotions that must be dealt with. Emotions that run the gamut, from the loss of my dad, illness of a sibling, personal friendships and more.

    Music is a true language, and is poetic by nature, with it’s melody and rhythm. I feel that it can hammer a point home more than any spoken phrase. Music is everything.

    You told your readers that Gord Downie himself once said: “Music is a way for people to get in touch with the best parts of themselves and to voice the love in their hearts.” What a profound statement he made!

    You attended the Bear Creek Music Festival in Grande Prairie. Music exists for this reason, really, when you exclaimed:

    “I couldn’t help but tap my toes and join in on a standing ovation when a set featuring a collection of artists came to an end.”


    “It has the power and energy to get us to do things we might not normally do.”

    True, that! It makes me think of the song, “Live is Life”, by Opus.

    This was a fine tribute you wrote, David, to an incredibly talented musical guru, and great Canadian, Gord Downie.

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