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How We Will Miss Gord Downie And The Tragically Hip

Paramount to his appeal as a rock lyricist, of course, is Downie’s elevation of Canadian geography and mythology to the level of the mystical. When the Tragically Hip’s debut EP was released in 1987, to hear Canadiana in rousing rock songs was novel—to a large degree, it still is. Audiences in the Hip’s early days were hungry for it, especially when free trade, endless constitutional wrangling, the Oka crisis, the Montreal massacre and other issues were necessitating national self-examination. The Hip were hardly alone; they were one of many bands chiselling out a new identity in Canadian song.

The Hip set the bar for my personal expectation of what it means to be a Canadian band. Where you are from is secondary - at least for me - to what you write about. I expect Canadian bands to write about Canada. Not exclusively - not even predominantly - but my expectations are that they use their platform to tell stories about our history and share our culture. It is worth noting that despite his huge success across the globe, Drake easily meets my expectations for what it means to be a Canadian artist. He has no shortage of lyrics and songs about his hometown. Still waiting for Justin Bieber to write a song about the Stratford Festival.

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