Like many of you, I watched with amazement this past summer as Gord Downie performed a farewell tour across Canada with The Tragically Hip. Then we heard that he had been working on a solo project called Secret Path.
Secret Path acknowledges a dark part of Canada’s history—the long-suppressed mistreatment of Indigenous children and families by the residential school system—with the hope of starting our country on a road to reconciliation.
Secret Path is an album, film and comic which tell the story of a young Chanie Wenjack who escaped from a residential school in an attempt to return to his family and home. As we now know, he never made it.
I was fortunate to watch Downie perform the first single from the album, The Stranger.
It was more emotional and heart wrenching than being at The Hip’s last show in Toronto this past summer. So much so that I haven’t been able to even watch Secret Path. Yet.
It is very sad that this place I call home, Canada, is responsible for taking children away from their homes for no other reason than they were indigenous. Canada did this for 100 years. Canada is still a place where you can find indigenous communities 30 minutes away from Toronto that live under a drinking water contamination alert. It’s fucking ridiculous.
If we care about people we should all be doing something (significant or otherwise) to make the lives of Canada’s First Peoples better. We must.
Write to your MP. Educate your children. Educate yourself. Challenge the Prime Minister and other Cabinet members on social media on what concrete steps are being taken to ensure than reconciliation truly happens. Support The Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund. Do something. Because doing nothing is no longer an option.
The Stranger is Gord Downie’s first single from his new album, Secret Path.
“Gord Downie began Secret Path as ten poems incited by the story of Chanie Wenjack, a twelve year-old boy who died fifty years ago on October 22, 1966, in flight from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School near Kenora, Ontario, walking home to the family he was taken from over 400 miles away. Gord was introduced to Chanie Wenjack (miscalled “Charlie” by his teachers) by Mike Downie, his brother, who shared with him Ian Adams’ Maclean’s story from February 6, 1967, “The Lonely Death of Charlie Wenjack.””
Last night, at We Day Family, Gord performed this emotional and haunting song in front of 20,000 children and parents.
Last night 20,000 students, parents and guardians filled the Air Canada Centre for the evening programming of We Day, We Day Family.
We witnessed inspiring stories and performances from a wide variety of people including the Barenaked Ladies, Chris Hadfield, Rick Hanson, Gord Downie, Lily Singh, Paula Abdul, Pearl Wenjack, Hedley, Nelly Furtado and many others!
The focus for the event was to inspire children and their families to make a difference in their family, community, country and world. A wonderful and inspiring event!
On Saturday September 17, 2016, Toronto officially opened up one of its newest parks: Lee Lifeson Art Park. Named after the founding members of the iconic Canadian progressive rock band, Rush, the park is a celebration of the musical contributions of Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson.
It is now part of music folklore that Lee and Lifeson met in the Willowdale neighbourhood of the former city of North York.
On Saturday, all three members (Neil Peart was absent) received the key to the city by Toronto Mayor John Tory.
All week long, Samsung has been hosting a pop-up activation in downtown Toronto ahead of its latest Galaxy release. I happened to walk by the location yesterday after leaving the Blue Jays game a bit early. You wouldn’t believe what happened next! I literally bumped into Toronto’s own Skratch Bastid playing in front of a small and intimate crowd.
Last night we attended The Tragically Hip’s final Toronto date on their “farewell” Man Machine Poem Tour. It was also the second live rock concert that our (now 10 years old) son, Kahzmir, attended. The first one was on his 8th birthday to see Arcade Fire in Toronto.
It was also the second time (that I can remember) attending the same concert with my brother, Aneez. The first concert was on New Year’s Eve 1985 to see OMD and Thompson Twins at Toronto’s old Maple Leaf Gardens.
The Tragically Hip were never my favourite band. At least not that I can remember. However, they have always been part of my musical appetite since I had my first portable FM radio player. I had purchased this player on Air Canada (or maybe it was WardAir?) coming back from England in the summer of 1989 and would walk to and from Sir John A Macdonald high school in Scarborough. It was a 10 minute walk. And it was on 102.1 and/or 107.1 that I started hearing songs like Blow At High Dough, New Orleans Is Sinking, 38 Years Old, Boots Or Hearts and Trickle Down.
I didn’t know it at the time but Up To Here was most likely the album that made me appreciate the mix of poetry and rock that I came to later appreciate in all of Neil Young’s incarnations.
Since then, the Tragically Hip have always just been there. I never noticed them. I just came to expect them. They were part of rock and roll. They were (and still are) part of Canada.
Although I’ve since “misplaced” my Hip CDs and cassettes, Road Apples was my first Hip album. My favourite tune from that album is Cordelia. I have no clue what the song is about. I love the lyrics and the pulsing beat that overlay the amazing lead and rhythm guitars in Cordelia.
Fully Completely is filled with hit singles. As many as U2’s The Joshua Tree. In my opinion. The next album, Day for Night contains my favourite Hip song, Nautical Disaster. I had the lyrics of this song taped to my desk in my room. And this was before the album was ever released.
It was listening to one of these albums that got me through a serious breakup in university. Thanks for the company, boys.
I’ve been to plenty of big events and concerts. I was in attendance at the Skydome when Canada played the US in World Cup of Baseball. I saw Halladay pitch against Burnett. I’ve been to Metallica and AC/DC concerts. Nothing can compare to the level of noise that the crowd in attendance last night created. NOTHING. It was deafening.
See my photos and videos from my view at the concert HERE.
I played air guitar, fist pumped to songs like Three Pistols and Little Bones, and generally caused Minaz and Kahzmir to look at me and shake their heads. I sang loudly to the hits. I smiled in glee then continued to rock out to songs long forgotten but still tattooed in my internal radio station.
When the show ended with Grace, Too I was caught off guard. There was no warning it was over. I wasn’t ready to say thank you. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye.
Last night’s concert was not goodbye for me. Music and songs live forever. We know Gord Downie will leave this world sooner rather than later. But the music that he created with his best friends will live on forever.
I’m thankful for the music. I always will be. I’ll always enjoy the music.
I’m thankful for Sunday August 14, 2016.
I’ll see you folks on down the road somewhere – Gord Downie
Here’s the set list from The Tragically Hip’s last show in Toronto:
Toronto Island’s Shadowland Theatre spent the past week in north Scarborough as part of Arts In The Park. From Saturday until the following Friday they held workshops with musicians, makers, performers and Aboriginal teachers. The result was a theatrical parade that told the story of Alexmuir Park.
Today’s episode I speak with Chris Jancelewicz. Chris is a seasoned online entertainment editor with almost a decade of experience in the publishing world. He has run multiple websites, contributed to AOL.com, Huffington Post and now is the National Entertainment Online Reporter at Global News.
Listen to his thoughts on Pokemon Go and the hit Netflix docuseries, Making A Murderer.