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The Tragically Hip

The Tragically Hip is a Canadian rock band from Kingston, Ontario, consisting of Gordon Downie (lead vocals and occasional acoustic guitar), Paul Langlois (guitar), Rob Baker (guitar), Gord Sinclair (bass) and Johnny Fay (drums). The band is one of the most popular and influential bands in Canada, and in 2005 was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

History

The Tragically Hip—often referred to simply as The Hip—formed in 1983. They took their name from a skit in the long-form video Elephant Parts by Michael Nesmith of The Monkees. Nesmith took the phrase from the song "He's So Cool" by Carolyne Mas.

In 1987, the band signed a long-term record deal with MCA after former company president Bruce Dickinson saw them perform live at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, Ontario. Later that year they released the self-titled EP The Tragically Hip, but the band did not achieve success until the release of 1989's Up to Here. In 1993, they created the Another Roadside Attraction festival, which tours Canada to promote Canadian bands.

Known for their energetic live performances, the band is noted for their improvisational renditions of songs. Lead singer Downie often strays from the song lyrics to rant to the audience or wander off into fictitious monologues and conversations. Some of these become lyrics for future songs. The most famous live monologue is the "killerwhaletank" version of "New Orleans Is Sinking", recorded at The Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles, California, May 3, 1991. During the song, Downie tells the story of how he worked as a diver in a killer whale tank only to have his arm ripped off. This version was released on CD in 1996 as the B-side to "Grace, Too". Other notable monologues include the "Police Frogman" version of "New Orleans Is Sinking" (Downie rescues a family trapped in their car at the bottom of a frozen lake), the "Greek Porter" version of "Highway Girl" (in which Downie has an affair with a female porter on a luxury cruise ship while on an ocean crossing), the "Double Suicide" version of "Highway Girl (in which Downie "accidentally" shoots his girlfriend) and the "Japanese Exchange Student" version of "At the Hundredth Meridian" (the day before Halloween, Downie accidentally shoots a Japanese student trick or treating). During a cover of the Them hit "Gloria", Gord talks about tying his friend to the railroad tracks and being unable to free him in time to avoid the approaching train.

Although the band is immensely popular in Canada, they have never found mainstream success in the United States. Their most-seen appearance in the United States was on March 25, 1995, when they appeared on Saturday Night Live (performing Grace, Too and Nautical Disaster) with fellow Canadian and friend Dan Aykroyd guest starring, and with John Goodman hosting. In 1999, The Hip were also one of the featured bands at Woodstock '99 held in Rome, New York. When touring in Canada they typically play to sold-out arenas; when touring in the United States they play smaller venues and clubs, or festivals where they aren't the headliner. Performances abroad are usually attended by Canadian expatriates. The band permit recordings of their performances, so an active trading community thrives. The tone and content of much of their music is a paean to the Canadian experience and touches on such themes as small-town life, geography, Canadian history and ice hockey. The historical, geographical and individual references in many of the lyrics are a source of much internet discussion.

Despite the fact that The Tragically Hip are largely unknown in the United States, their live album, Live Between Us, was recorded at Cobo Arena in Detroit, Michigan in 1996 in support of the album Trouble at the Henhouse. The Hip have a small but fervent American following, especially in border states such as Michigan, Vermont and upstate and western New York. Standout tracks from the album include a powerful version of "New Orleans Is Sinking" and a heavily improvised "Grace, Too", in which Downie alternates between muttering asides ("I was born in a little town / I was on my way down") and spitting four-letter lyrics with something close to disgust. In 1998, the band released their seventh full-length album, Phantom Power, which contains such fan-favourite songs as "Poets", "Bobcaygeon", and "Fireworks".

In 1996, they contributed the song "Butts Wigglin" to the soundtrack to the movie Brain Candy. The song originally appeared on Trouble at the Henhouse.

On October 10, 2002, The Tragically Hip performed two songs, "It's a Good Life If You Don't Weaken", and "Poets", as part of a command performance for Queen Elizabeth II.

In 2003, The Tragically Hip performed a cover of "Black Day in July", a song about the 1967 12th Street Riot in Detroit, on Beautiful: A Tribute to Gordon Lightfoot.

The Hip have a star on the Canadian Walk of Fame. On April 3, 2005 they were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame at the 2005 Juno Awards, and performed "Fully Completely" and "Grace, Too". They also performed a three-song set at the Live 8 concert in Barrie, Ontario with Dan Aykroyd joining them as a guest harmonica player.

Three full length live shows recorded in 2004 were released as downloads for purchase at LiveDownloads.com, as part of The Hip Live Series. They were recorded at the Molson Amphitheatre in Toronto, the John Labatt Centre in London, and the Civic Centre in Ottawa.

In October 2005, several radio stations temporarily stopped playing The Hip's song "New Orleans Is Sinking", out of sensitivity to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, which had devastated the city in early September of that year.

On November 1, 2005, the Hip released a double CD, double DVD box set, Hipeponymous, including all of their music videos to date, a backstage documentary called "Macroscopic", an animated Hip-scored short film entitled "The Right Whale", two brand new songs ("No Threat" and "The New Maybe"), a full length concert from November 2004 entitled That Night in Toronto (which takes its title from a line in the song "Bobcaygeon"), and a 2-CD greatest hits collection Yer Favourites (selected on-line by 150,000 fans). On November 8, 2005, Yer Favourites and That Night In Toronto were released individually.

In mid-2006 The Hip completed a tour, in addition to recording a studio album produced by Bob Rock. The album, entitled World Container, was released in Canada on October 17, 2006 and in the US on March 6, 2007. The album's third track, "In View", was released as both a radio single and as a music video, and reached the #1 spot on the Canadian rock music charts. The mutual love between The Hip, hockey and Canada was further demonstrated when the track "The Lonely End of the Rink" (the second Canadian single) was featured prominently on Hockey Night in Canada the week of the album's release. In support of the album, the band played concert dates in major Canadian cities, then as an opening act for The Who on several US dates. A tour of Eastern Canada, Europe, and select cities in the United States occurred late in the year.

On February 23, 2008, The Tragically Hip returned to their hometown of Kingston, Ontario, where they were the first live act to perform at the new K-Rock Centre.

The Hip have recorded 15+ songs at The Bath House Recording Studio in Bath, Ontario for an upcoming album due out later this year.

Members

Current

Former

Solo projects

Honours and awards

Canada's Walk of Fame

  • 2002: Inducted in Toronto, Ontario

Canadian Music Hall of Fame

  • 2005: Inducted at the Juno Awards in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Royal Conservatory of Music

  • 2006: Presented with an Honourary Fellowship May 24 at the Windsor Arms Hotel in Toronto, Ontario

Governor General's Performing Arts Awards

  • 2008: Presented the National Arts Centre Award

Juno Awards

  • 1990: Most Promising Group of the Year
  • 1991: Canadian Entertainer of the Year
  • 1993: Canadian Entertainer of the Year
  • 1995: Entertainer of the Year, Group of the Year
  • 1997: Group of the Year, Album of the Year (Trouble at the Henhouse), North Star Rock Album of the Year (Trouble at the Henhouse)
  • 1999: Best Rock Album (Phantom Power), Best Album Design (Phantom Power)
  • 2000: Best Single ("Bobcaygeon")
  • 2001: Best Rock Album (Music@Work)
  • 2006: CD/DVD Artwork Design of the Year (Hipeponymous), Music DVD of the Year (Hipeponymous)

Discography

Hit singles

Release Date Title Chart positions Album
Canada
RPM 100
Canadian
Singles
Chart

1987 "Small Town Bringdown" #29 #17 The Tragically Hip
1987 "Highway Girl" #31 #22
1989 "Blow At High Dough" #18 #12 Up to Here
1989 "New Orleans Is Sinking" #10 #2
1990 "Boots Or Hearts" #31 #14
1990 "38 Years Old" #21 #3
1991 "Little Bones" #11 #1 Road Apples
1991 "Three Pistols" #29 #14
1991 "Twist My Arm" #22 #13
1991 "Long Time Running" #15 #11
1991 "On The Verge" #17 #10
1992 "Locked In The Trunk Of A Car" #11 #2 Fully Completely
1992 "Fifty Mission Cap" #1 #1
1993 "Courage" #10 #1
1993 "At The Hundredth Meridian" #18 #11
1993 "Looking For A Place To Happen" #21 #8
1993 "Fully Completely" #35 #12
1994 "Grace, Too" #11 #9 Day for Night
1994 "Greasy Jungle" #8 #2
1995 "Nautical Disaster" #15 #11
1995 "So Hard Done By" #24 #18
1995 "Scared" #27 #13
1996 "Thugs" #11 #7
1996 "Ahead By A Century" #1 #1 Trouble at the Henhouse
1996 "Gift Shop" #6 #3
1996 "700 Ft. Ceiling" #12 #3
1996 "Butts Wigglin" #23 #14
1996 "Flamenco" #12 #9
1997 "Springtime In Vienna" #11 #10 Live Between Us
1997 "New Orleans is Sinking" #1 #1
1997 "Courage" #1 #1
1997 "Grace Too" #1 #1
1997 "Giftshop" #3 #2
1998 "Poets" #4 #1 Phantom Power
1998 "Something On" #10 #5
1998 "Fireworks" #13 #8
1999 "Bobcaygeon" #1 #1
1999 "Escape is at Hand for the Travelin' Man" #4 #9
2000 "My Music At Work" #1 #1 Music at Work
2000 "Lake Fever" #16 #19
2000 "The Completists" #20 #15
2000 "Freak Turbulence" #10 #4
2002 "Its a Good Life If You Don't Weaken" #11 #5 In Violet Light
2002 "Silver Jet" #14 #3
2002 "The Darkest One" #14 #5
2004 "Vaccination Scar" #10 #4 In Between Evolution
2004 "Summer's Killing Us" #14 #8
2004 "It Can't be Nashville Every Night" #9 #7
2006 "In View" #4 #1 World Container
2006 "Yer Not the Ocean" #14 #6
2006 "The Lonely End of the Rink" #21 #14
2007 "Family Band" #13 #9

EPs

Studio albums

Live Albums

Compilations

Video Releases

Box Sets

  • Hipeponymous (Universal, 2005), Includes Yer Favourites and That Night in Toronto

Other singles

Trivia

  • The band had a cameo in the television show Corner Gas, where Brent kicks them out of his garage so that his group "Thunderface" can practise.
  • The band has a cameo in the movie Men with Brooms, where they play the curling team representing Kingston.
  • The band plays with Sarah Harmer in her single "Silver Road" which was written for the movie Men with Brooms. Gordon Downie also appears in the music video for this song as the ice maker.
  • Canadian Hip-Hop artist K-os references the song "Ahead by a Century" in his song Crabbuckit, from the album Joyful Rebellion.
  • In the Trailer Park Boys episode, "Closer To The Heart", they kidnap Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson, where he asks "Who are you?" to Ricky, to which he replies "Gord Downie". In the episode, "We Can't Call People Without Wings Angels So We Call Them Friends", the song "The Drop-Off" from World Container is heard playing on the radio.
  • In Trailer Park Boys: The Movie, the boys go to a theatre and all the movies in the theatre are named after Rush and Tragically Hip songs. Gord Downie and Alex Lifeson also have cameos as police officers who pull over main characters Ricky (Robb Wells) and Julian (John Paul Tremblay). Later on, "Bobcaygeon" plays over the closing credits of the movie. The movie also features "38 Years Old" (jail scene), and "Scared" (lap-dance club scene). Titles of other Hip songs can also be seen on the marquee of the movie theatre where the Boys pull off "The Big Dirty".
  • The song "Blow at High Dough" was used as the theme song for Canadian sitcom Made in Canada, starring Rick Mercer.
  • The song "Little Bones" was used as the theme for the weekly CBC TV music show Ear to the Ground.
  • The television program Due South used the Tragically Hip song "At the Hundredth Meridian" during a car chase.
  • "All Tore Up" (from the album In Violet Light) is featured as menu music in XSN Sports' NHL Rivals 2004 for the Microsoft Xbox. This was the first time a Hip song was licensed for a video game.
  • The band did a music video for "The Darkest One" which featured the Trailer Park Boys stealing an engine for their car and Don Cherry delivering fried chicken.
  • Drummer Johnny Fay once famously quipped to Billboard that being the biggest band in Canada was "like being the world's tallest midgets".
  • The band's hit song "New Orleans Is Sinking" was largely shunned from radio play following the extensive flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina.
  • On July 7, 1989 about forty people watched Nirvana open for the band at the O'Cayz Corral, in Madison, Wisconsin.
  • The song "New Orleans Is Sinking" was covered by the band Billy Talent when they were still called Pezz, on their first album Watoosh!
  • Actress Sarah Polley does a cover of the song "Courage" in the Atom Egoyan film The Sweet Hereafter. The original version of the song is played in the closing credits. In the U.S. release of the film on video, Sarah's cover version closes the movie.
  • The song Ahead by a Century is played in the movie Jumper when David talks with Millie for the first time in 8 years.
  • The song "Pigeon Camera", from the album Fully Completely, plays over the end credits of the movie I Love a Man in Uniform, released in 1994.

See also

References

External links

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