Thought of by many music fans as one of the quintessential Canadian bands, The Tragically Hip has a long history of making pure Canadian-tinged rock ‘n roll – songs referring to hockey, the CBC, and Canadian events and places have made them a national treasure to Canada and a powerful draw in border states like New York, Michigan, and Washington. In Facebook comments on my feature “Five Hot Canadian Bands You Should Know,” one of the most asked questions was “What about The Hip?” The answer – they needed their own space.
Formed in Kingston, Ontario, Canada in 1983, The Hip consists of lead singer Gord Downie, guitarists Paul Langlois and Rob Baker, bass player Rob Sinclair, and drummer Johnny Fay. While playing small venues in Ontario, the band attracted the attention of MCA Records in Canada, resulting in the release of their self-titled debut EP in 1987. The 1989 follow-up, Up to Here, cemented them firmly on Canadian rock and modern rock radio; the album featured what has become one of their most popular songs, “New Orleans Is Sinking,” which in concert becomes one of Downie’s favorite storytelling songs, particularly the popular “Killer Whale Tank” version.
The Hip have released a dozen studio albums, two live albums, and a box set of two CDs and two DVDs in their native Canada, but have never broken through in the US save border states and large music scenes like California and Texas. This may be in part to the largely Canadian topics making up many of The Hip’s lyrics, exploring Canadian history, towns, geography, and Canada’s national pastime, hockey.
The Hip was responsible for the highly-popular Another Roadside Attraction tour, which promoted little-known Canadian artists in addition to The Hip. They also appeared on Saturday Night Live at the request of host Dan Aykroyd, who is a huge fan of the band, and were the opening act for The Who on several US dates in 2006.
Singer Downie, known for his poetic lyrics – often undecipherable – and on-stage rants and storytelling, has released three solo albums and toured with his own band, known as The Country of Miracles; the band consists of indie band The Dinner is Ruined along with singers Julie Doiron and Josh Finlayson. He has also appeared in some films, most notably Men With Brooms with Paul Gross of Due South fame and the Trailer Park Boys’ The Big Dirty.
Source: MacKenzie Wilson, “The Tragically Hip Biography,” new.music.yahoo.com