Which lyrics will end up on Kingston’s commemorative Tragically Hip stone?

October 03, 2016

One of—if not the—most difficult Tragically Hip-centric questions may be choosing a favourite lyric. Canada’s de facto poet laureate, Gord Downie, has created more standout lines than Alberta has snake holes, which makes it difficult to hitch yourself to just one. The more you think about it, the harder it gets: “from thin and wicked prairie winds, come in” (from “The Darkest One”), “no dress rehearsal, this is our life” (from “Ahead By a Century”), “for a good life we just might have to weaken/and find somewhere to go” (from “It’s a Good Life If You Don’t Weaken”).

 

 

The above poem, of course, is written by the legendary Al Purdy. But it’s also an insight into the weight Downie gave poetry—a medium too often snickered at, dismissed as a pointless pursuit, regardless of its obvious value to society (believe me, none of your homes, your neighbourhoods, your cities and provinces are worth much without the muscle of poetry behind them). But now Kingston residents have to choose between two of the Tragically Hip frontman’s lyrics for a commemorative stone that will take its residence in Springer Market Square. Those two lines? “Everybody was in it from miles around” from “Blow At High Dough” or “We danced the sidewalk clean” from “New Orleans Is Sinking.” Personally, the latter is pretty hard to beat, especially given the sign is likely to take its spot right near a sidewalk. And it’s better to dance in the face of tragedy than wilt.

What would you choose, given the chance to immortalize a Gord Downie lyric in your region, town, city? Don’t forget that a lot of them across Canada are already addressed. Saskatoon in “Wheat Kings,” Quebec in “Locked In The Trunk of a Car,” Ontario cabin country in “Bobcaygeon.” There are a lot of references to Canadian places in the Hip’s work, and many captured in Downie’s masterful writing. Which should get attention? Which don’t get enough?

 

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About the Author

Matt Williams

Matt Williams is a writer and photographer. Born and raised on the Prairies in Winnipeg, he’s slowly made his way farther and farther east, spending a few years covering music in Toronto before running clear out of country and ending up on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. In between, he’s made numerous detours, interviewing and photographing countless artists across North America and beyond. He heads up Amplify’s Instrumental series, where he talks with musicians about the relationships they’ve formed with their most important tools.

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