The Tragically Hip Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 20 March 2017

The Tragically Hip

           Unlike in the United States where activist music exists largely, Canadian music is not usually recognized for being overtly political. Regardless, Canadian music is not lacking of message, moral or story. Only, the artists never had experiences of unique movements like the United States’ Civil Right Movement or the South Africa’s Anti-Apartheid. That’s why there are no songs that would portray such “nationalistic” feelings prominent during the said events.A Still, Canadian audiences are blessed enough with a number of artists who try to incorporate “Canadiana” in the form of stories, descriptions or just simple statements (Tutsch).

Canada could boast of the band “The Tragically Hip”.A Aptly named, this band is well known as one of the most popular and most successful Canadian rock bands.A From 1983, the band had already produced a number of hit albums, all of which is differing in style and theme. When the band was signed by MCA Canada just after a few years, success seems to be achieved in a short span of time, that on their 8 th album, they already have over 5 Million copies of all their albums sold. The rock band is especially well known as well for its live performances.

The group was formed on 1986.  This five-member band led by vocalist Gordon Downie embarked on its career initially just touring Kingston, performing on Ontario area clubs and playing on parties. Gordon Downie and the other four members, Bobby Baker-the guitarist, Johnny Fay-the drummer, Paul Langlois who play the guitar and also a vocalist, and Gord Sinclair, who play the bass, organ and a vocalist in the group as well, were longtime friends from Kinston, Ontario.  Their early performances on these clubs were mostly renditions of original songs of different artists that they jokingly present to the audience as something other artists had wanted to do, yet didn’t do so, therefore they would.

Two years of using the pubs, clubs and beer halls of Ontario as their stage, the group had come up with and released a mini-album containing eight songs.  This first album was self-entitled “The Tragically Hip”.   Playing laying no-frills rock and roll, something new at that time, the band fascinated the audiences with their roaring and sweat-soaked performances, leaving them transfixed and wanting for more. Later on, they become fondly known as “the Hip” among their devotees.

After their initial success, they began to record more albums, all of which are best-sellers.  They did not stop there as they start earning more and more prestigious awards almost steadily.  Under the Juno awarding, the group received twice the label “Best Rock Album” one for Phantom Power and the other for Music at Work.  They also had a “Best Single”, two “Album of the Year”, two “Group of the Year” and won thrice in the category “Entertainer of the Year”.  On April 2, 2005, the rock band was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame at the Winnipeg Convention Centre during Juno Weekend celebrations (Canada’s Walk of Fame).

   Success was not a bit planned at all. According to Gordon Downie, they did not aspire beyond just having fun. this was around 20 years ago, in which much of the journey for Downie since then had been an exploration of his views on what it means for him to be a Canadian, and one could watch it evolve in terms of their lyrics. For him, this is probably because he began questioning a little bit why he did not have a `rah-rah’ patriotic view of Canada when he was a writer from a small town, middle class in Canada , and so it became his goal to really go further. The band had shown its love and respect for its country through the concerts it held, tickets of which are always sold out and hit albums that are always top selling.

The band was clearly well-accepted by its country. That is evidenced by the group’s remarkable collection of career achievements and its more than six million sold records worldwide.  Over 30 of their songs had reached the Top 10 status on Canadian radio.  Most of these favorites are songs that particularly reflect the lives of everyday Canadians like Wheat Kings and Fifty Mission Cap (Canada’s Walk Of Fame).

Best Song

Since the band had over 30 of their songs marked `Top 10′ on Canadian radio, it goes without saying that almost all their records are impressive. But, what really move Canadians are the band’s songs that tell and reflect Canadians’ daily normal lives. One of these as mentioned is Wheat Kings. “Wheat Kings” is a song from the band’s album “Fully Completely” released in October 1992. If one would go beyond just listening to the music to analyzing the content, it could be discovered that the song actually tells the tale of David Milgaard, a man wrongfully convicted of murder.

  On 1969, Gail Miller’s raped and murdered body was found in the alley of Saskatoon, the largest city in Saskatchewan. Saskatoon Police followed every possible lead and even offered monetary award. The Police was then able to attain Milgaard’s traveling companions that they had seen him possessing a knife and blood on his clothing. They also testified that they’d seen Milgaard had stabbed the women. Milgaard was charged with the murder and sentenced to life in prison on 1970. The convicted was a young hippie who had been on the area of crime to pick up a friend. He attempted to proclaim his innocence and appealed his case but was continually denied. Milgaard attempted to take his own life. On 1991, the case was reopened and two years after, it was discovered that he was innocent after all, based on advanced DNA evidence and the false testimonies of the key witnesses (Tutsch).

     Through the lyrics of “Wheat Kings”, the band tells the story of David Milgaard, at the same time, sympathy with his plight could be felt. The song encourages Canadians as well as all the other listeners to learn from the errors of wrongful conviction.A There are even messages that relate to the death penalty, a debatable in Canada during the 90s.A The complex lyrics with the melody combined, make up a song with important messages. The song contained a musical experience that can be enjoyed by even those unaware of the case. This song’s audience is very diverse, like all the band’s songs, ranging from the mid-teens to the mid 40s.A “Wheat Kings” employs a style that reaches a broad audience with a clear Canadian message, and is based on a specific event and values (Tutsch).

Best Album

Phantom Power is the group’s album that won the Best Rock Album and Best Album design on the Juno Awards on the year 1999. The album plays straight-laced, no frill, honest-to-goodness rock and roll.  In today’s world, where money becomes the bottom line, it really is hard to look for something that contains substance rather than just style.  But The Hip got both, and this album is the proof.  That’s why it’s no wonder that it would appeal to a whole range of audiences.

              Incredibly, songs in the album were all composed by the members themselves.  These tracks include: Poets, Something On, Save the Planet, Bobcaygeon, Thompson Girl, Membership, Fireworks, Vapour Trails, The Rules, Chagrin Falls, Escape is at hand for the Travellin’ Man and Emperor Penguin.

Overall importance to the Canadian Music Industry

              Globalization had indeed made the world smaller.  In order to compete in such world, conforming to the culture of that certain marketplace is in order.  There seems no room left for uniqueness. These could be seen in the different countries global market-driven media. Canada was not immune to such. Although the country’s governments sought to protect their media from being shaped by the global marketplace’s culture, it is inevitable to happen.  For example, watching Canadian television will not vary so much from watching American television for they are styled similarly, from the pace to the advertisements, no matter if an American or a Canadian produced what was being aired.  

              The music scene was also highly regulated by the Canadian Radio-Television Commission.  The institution actually required that there must at least be 30% Canadian content in the music played on the radio, meaning at least 2 among the composer, the lyricist, the performer and the venue must be Canadian (Cross).

               The Tragically Hip is a most striking example of a band that abided by these regulations and more. It was actually a band undreamt of before the 70s. The band frequently uses Canadian places and themes in its songs. It had enjoyed and still continuing to do so a profitable career without performing to the United States, considered one of the greener pastures that is impossible to not trek into (Cross).

              The band is therefore considered one of the rare performers who sort of “put” the Canadian Music Industry in the map.  This was recognized by the Royal Conservatory of Music, which is an organization that honors Canadian artists that made permanent contribution on the music industry.  The group’s music and performances were distinguished for the fact that they were able to reach all sorts of people. To be honored by one of the largest and oldest independent arts educator in Canada should already tell us the worth of this band in Canada (Royal Conservatory of Music, Canada).

Overall importance to the Global Music Industry

The band that took its name from the cult classic movie “Elephant Parts” by ex-Monkee Michael Nesmith is not only loved and valued by the Canadians, but also by listeners worldwide. Although it does not have a steady fan base in America, this is the unique point of the band. They remain true to their nationality, yet it incorporated this love of their country in their songs without sounding stiff. For goodness sake, it’s a ROCK band! That made this band worth boasting of by the Canadians, and worth emulating by other bands in the global music industry.

 

 

 

 

References:

Cross, Michael. Entering the Tribal And Acoustic World Globally. Grubstreet edition.  Retrieved October 16, 2007 onhttp://grubstreetbooks.ca/handingdownofculture/Resources/04_Cross.pdf

The Tragically Hip honoured by The Royal Conservatory. (2006) Royal Conservatory of Arts, Canada.  Retrieved October 16, 2007 from http://www.rcmusic.ca/ContentPage.aspx?name=release_royaloccasion2006

The Tragically Hip: 2002 Inductee. (2002) Canada’s Walk of Fame.  Retrieved October 20, 2007 from http://www.canadaswalkoffame.com/inductees/02_the_tragically_hip.xml.htm

Tutsch, Tim. Wheat Kings: The Story of Milgaard.  Songs and Society. Retrieved Oct 16, 2007 http://64.233.179.104/scholar?hl=en&lr=&q=cache:om413Q9iLhYJ:timtutsch.ca/Blog/ heat%2520kings%2520paper.doc+wheat+kings

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