Thursday 30 June 2016

The Tragically Hip

The Tragically Hip, a Canadian rock band from Kingston, Ontario which debuted in 1984, has come back into the limelight with its lead singer, Gordon Downie, being diagnosed with terminal cancer. Their last concert, scheduled for this summer, was sold out four minutes after tickets went on sale.

One blogger suggested that you could teach a History lesson using Tragically Hip songs.  Here is a list of suggested tunes:

1.  Fifty Mission Cap

Based on a World War II cap that a pilot received for flying fifty mission successfully, this is a cap that Gordon Downie owned.  Inside was a hockey card of Bill Barilko, the one who scored the winning goal to win the Maple Leafs the Stanley Cup in 1951.  That summer he went on a fishing trip and disappeared in the Northern Ontario Bush.  The plane's wreckage wasn't found for another 11 years, the same length of time it took Toronto to win the Cup again. (

2.  At the Hundredth Meridian

The Hundredth Meridian is a line of latitude with separates Central and Eastern Canada from Western Canada.  The Hundredth Meridian is where the Great Plains begin.  "I remember buffalo and I remember Hengelo" is a line from the song in reference to the glory days of the Plains, filled with buffalo, and the glory days of the band, at a Hengelo, Holland concert filled with fans.

3.  Fireworks

This song makes reference to all things Canadian:  the Canada Fitness Award Program, hockey legend Bobby Orr and the 1972 Summit Hockey Series in which Paul Henderson scored the winning goal against the Soviets, immortalized in the line "If there's a goal that everyone remembers it was back in ol' '72."

4.  Wheat Kings

This song talks about the beautiful skyline at "Sundown in the Paris of the Prairies" (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan) and alludes to convicted murderer David Milgaard who received 20 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit.

5.  Looking For a Place to Happen

Traces the history of explorer Jacques Cartier and his journey across Canada.

6.  Listen to the Bear

Refers to a bear in Algonquin Park, a famous camping destination for Canadians, immortalized by painters The Group of Seven.

7.  Bobcaygeon

Cottage country town Bobcaygeon is the title of their song which mentions looking at the constellations. It also mentions the "checkerboard floors" of the town's Horseshoe Tavern.

Note:  My son's birth cousin, Tyler Wilson, is part of a band called "Checkerboard Floors", inspired by the Tragically Hip's reference.

8.  The Dire Wolf

The songs talks about Isle aux Morts in Newfoundland.

9.  Nautical Disaster

A reference to the World War II Canadian raid on Dieppe in which 4000 of the 4800 soldiers were killed.

10.  New Orleans is Sinking

This was written before Hurricane Katrina.  You could argue that this song has a Canadian theme since New Orleans was settled by Acadians, of French descent, who were deported from present day Nova Scotia in the 1750's.  Known for their cuisine, they became known as Cajuns.  If you say the French word "Acadien" quickly, it sounds like Cajun.  (

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