Since the Tragically Hip announced the devastating news that its frontman Gord Downie has been diagnosed with brain cancer, along with its upcoming, celebratory Canadian tour, fans have been outpouring their grief as well as their appreciation of the veteran rock band. And rightfully so, as the five-piece from Kingston, Ont., has arguably been the leader of the Canrock movement since its breakthrough, debut full-length album, Up to Here.
It has also led to many claims that the Tragically Hip is, indeed, the official band of Canada, according to fans, media outlets both in and outside the country, and even our Prime Minister. It got us wondering: is the Tragically Hip really the most Canadian band ever?
Below, you’ll find five points for and against this claim.
What do you think? Let us know on Twitter: @CBCMusic
5 reasons the Tragically Hip is the most Canadian band ever
1. It has had a long, successful career (13 albums spanning more than 30 years!), and has accomplished all that while never really selling well outside of Canada. In this country, however, it's unstoppable and has sold more than six million albums — more than both U2 and the Beatles!
2. As Canada’s band, it has been honoured with opening some of the country’s biggest venues. For instance, it was the very first band to perform at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. It also opened Kingston’s K-Rock Centre. And K-Rock’s address? 1 The Tragically Hip Way.
3. Since the Tragically Hip became big in the ‘90s, it has donated all proceeds from its hometown shows to charity. It’s an act the band doesn’t like to publicize, and one that very few know.
4. It made singing about Canadiana cool. It mythologized the country’s history, geography and icons, in a similar spirit to Stompin’ Tom and Gordon Lightfoot, but did so while also dominating mainstream radio across the country. Its songs reference places like Bobcaygeon, Kingston, Thompson, Manitoba, Attawapiskat, Tim Horton’s and, well, the CBC!
5. It has its own postage stamp!
5 reasons the Tragically Hip is not the most Canadian band ever
1. The band consists of white males, which is not exactly representative of one of the most multicultural countries in the world.
2. The band got its start playing a mix of Delta blues and rock 'n' roll, two quintessentially American genres, and one of its first big hits was “New Orleans is Sinking,” which is still a staple today.
3. On “At the Hundredth Meridian,” Gord Downie mentions that if he were to die, he’d want his friends to “get Ry Cooder to sing my eulogy.” Cooder is a non-Canadian blues guitar legend who famously taught Keith Richards open G tuning.
4. The band members are not big fans of Canada Day celebrations. Well, specifically the Canada Day they played in Barrie, Ont., in 1994, when people threw water bottles full of urine onto the stage and chanted “Hip! Hip! Hip!” at one of the opening acts. Downie suggested that had they just performed on July 2, everything would have been OK: “July 1 being a celebration of beer and money and Canada, in that order,” he said. (OK, fine, we can't really disagree with him there.)
5. According to the rest of the world, Rush is actually Canada’s band!
6. Bonus: Come on, we all know there’s no such thing as Canada’s official band. We love them all just the same, right?