Canadian cultural history changed in an instant today, with the news that Tragically Hip front-man Gord Downie has died. Yet the "Gordie" beloved by Canadians was not the intensely private man himself but the public persona—the poet and philosopher, the humanitarian and activist, the enigmatic raconteur.
Every generation cherishes the music of its youth. But Gord Downie and the Hip are unique in the pop-music pantheon. For theirs was the music of the generation sandwiched between the boomers and the millennials—the last of the pre-iTuners, for whom FM radio, live gigs, record albums and rock-auteur authenticity were communal experiences and formative identity markers. Heart-broken Gen-Xers are today consoling each other and listening to all-Hip radio—to remember, to rehash the old stories, to immerse themselves in the zeitgeist one last time. For the many thirty- and forty-somethings who trooped around the country, year after year, decade after decade, to see the Hip on stage, the loss of Gord Downie is intensely personal. But more than this, it feels like the end of an era—the era when music mattered. (For HW)