Canada doesn’t cry together, all at once, often, nor does Canada attend a rock concert, together, all at once, often. But on Saturday night (August 20), Canada shut down, and millions of tears fell.
It was a historical moment for Canada, as it was the final show for one of Canada’s most beloved bands, the Tragically Hip. It was also a show that raised over $265,000 and counting for brain cancer research, reports the CBC.
The tears were for Gord Downie, who just this spring went public with the knowledge that he had been diagnosed with glioblastoma, a rare form of multiforme brain tumor, according to the Huffington Post. Even Gord Downie cried during his final encore in a moment that broke millions of hearts all over his country.
The Hip, as the band is affectionately referred to as by Canadians, was playing its swan song. The Hip hail from Kingston, Ontario, and that’s exactly where they played their swan song. Gord Downie said during their third and final encore that they played to 13 people during their first gig, then to 28, then six. Now, The Hip have their own street name in Kingston, Ontario, according to the CBC News.
On Saturday night, they played for the entire country, as they have been for decades. According to the Tragically Hip website, their first album, The Tragically Hip, was released on January 1, 1987. Their most recent, Man Machine Poem, was released June 17, 2016, shortly after Gord Downie’s brain cancer diagnosis.
Many Americans lamenting over the success of the Hip have mentioned that the band never broke big in America. To the Hip, and to the Hip fans, that’s the point. The Hip is a band that has stayed true to their Canadian roots, and all any American needs to be reminded of that is their hit song “At the Hundredth Meridian,” where Gord Downie and the Hip “debunk an American myth.”
The Hip legend begins at the hundredth meridian, “where the great plains begin.” And all countrymen north of the border sang for them Saturday night, honoring what was a very special moment that was all Canada’s, and Canada’s alone.
In 30 years, the Hip have accumulated 14 Juno Awards, are listed in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, and nine of their albums have hit No. 1. The Tragically Hip have been as big an icon to Canada for decades.
Some Gen Xers who were carried through high school, college, marriage, kids, and divorce with this band will say the Hip are bigger than hockey in Canada. However, you won’t find many Canadians willing to utter those words out loud.
Even so, you can support the Hip, and brain cancer research, by getting your own Hip hockey jersey from The Hip Store for $225. Fans can also visit the In Gord We Trust store, where all proceeds support brain cancer research. Many items, like original canvas paintings of the lead singer, are already sold out.
For many Canadians, the Hip has been there through everything for them. And this weekend, Canada was there for them, to the tune of $265,000 and counting.
One thing was clear after Saturday night: The Tragically Hip weave a very large thread in the fabric of the Canadian soundtrack. They are a band that is big enough to shut the country down, and cry together, for what many considered their final performance.
Not only did the country shut down for this one last show, broadcasters all over Canada did too. On radio stations everywhere in Canada, all day Saturday, the Hip played commercial-free.
When it came time for the live show to be live streamed to Canada on Saturday night, Canada’s leading broadcaster, the CBC, stopped everything, including Olympics 2016 coverage. The CBC streamed the concert commercial-free just for Canada. It takes something big to get a broadcaster to stop collecting advertising dollars for one minute.
An act like that costs them millions. But many in Canada this past weekend did so for the day. That’s how big this event was.
And it wasn’t just broadcasters. Restaurants, bars, marketplaces, and retailers all over Canada hung out a shackle saying, buy a burger, a drink, a whatever — we are sending some of that to the Gord Downie Fund for Brain Cancer Research. A Change Jar app bar code was tweeted out, so all you have to do is scan your phone on the code and donate to the Gord Downie Brain Cancer Research Fund.
That’s how much Canada loves the Hip and Gordy Downie. The Huffington Post included a link for the Gord Downie Fund for Brain Cancer Research that takes you right to Sunnybrook Hospital page. That link must have been very busy this weekend.
The final tally at the end of the weekend was $265,000, according to the CBC and the Sunnybrook Hospital page. Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center in Toronto is the cancer hospital where Gord Downie has been receiving his treatment for brain cancer.
The Huffington Post reports that approximately two to three people out of 100,000 are affected by glioblastoma in Canada, the United States, and Europe every year. The Huffington Post says that approximately 250 people are treated at Sunnybrook every year. Gord Downie is now one of those numbers.
Money going to Sunnybrook Hospital and to the Gord Downie Fund for Brain Cancer Research is money well spent. Sunnybrook is the place to be if you need cancer treatment. From the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Facebook page, you can see how they spend that money.
A new diagnostic technique was highly anticipated and so big that it had to be delivered through the roof of the hospital recently. From the Sunnybrook website “How we Lead” section, they say that brain research breakthroughs are happening all the time there.
Canada isn’t just home to the legend of Gord Downie. Canada is also home to some of the most legendary cancer research on the planet.
Sunnybrook website tells us that it was just 2015 when researchers at Sunnybrook found a way to cross the blood-brain barrier and deliver chemotherapy medicine directly to a brain tumor “for the first time in history.” It’s the most advanced form of chemotherapy for glioblastoma and other forms of brain cancer in the world.
Sunnybrook will also soon offer the Gamma Knife Icon treatment, which destroys blastomas without destroying healthy brain cells. It is a treatment that saves the patient from undergoing “whole brain radiation.” Not only is the patient spared arduous treatment, but they are also able to maintain significant “cognitive function,” and their risk of memory loss following treatment is lower, says Sunnybrook.
Dr. James Perry, Gord Downie’s neuro-oncologist, is the man at Sunnybrook who knows brain cancer, and glioblastoma well. Now, he also knows Gord Downie well. He recently told CBC News that when he first saw the referral with Gord Downie’s name on it, “he instinctively swore.”
He thought it was a joke at first. Seeing “glioblastoma” beside Gordy’s name was not good.
He remembers emailing back the referring physician right away and saying, “Do you mean that Gord Downie??”
He said, “Wow that was tough.”
It was the same reaction felt by every Canadian that has followed this band for 30 years when the news of the diagnosis broke.
It’s exactly why Gord Downie and the Hip opened the final show with the song, “Courage.” It’s a song many decades old, with some very foreshadowing words, “It couldn’t come at a worse time.”
Dr. Perry told CBC News that the Hip’s Man Machine Poem tour was the “Ice Bucket Challenge” to Sunnybrook Hospital. He has been to every single concert but one and has been there for precautionary purposes for Gord.
He’s a neuro-oncologist who hopes the Gord Downie Fund for Brain Cancer Research is able to finance what he calls an “incubator” that will lead to even more groundbreaking research, and miracles, at Sunnybrook. Dr. Perry also told CBC News something that many fans of the Hip didn’t know.
Many fans of the Hip listen to Man Machine Poem album and think Gordy is singing about his diagnosis. But Dr. Perry says no, all of that was in place before the diagnosis even happened. He says it was 100 percent Gord’s call to go public, and he described it as “pure bravery.”
Watch the staff at Sunnybrook sing the Tragically Hip’s “Courage” just for Gordy. If you are a fan of the Hip, you may want a tissue for this.
Dr. Perry also knows that this concert tour did a lot of great things for Canada. And when he says that, he is not only talking about the legacy of Gord Downie and the Hip but also of brain cancer research. The final weekend of the Man Machine Poem tour raked in over $265,000 and counting.
That tally does not include any of the other 15 nights of the tour. Dr. Perry says the tour leveraged an amazing opportunity to create real awareness about a very scary thing, glioblastoma. He uses the word “pride” when talking about touring with this legend for the last few months.
He said the first show was the toughest. The one where Gord “came out” with the diagnosis. Gord’s manager was “losing it,” but the shows have been fine since.
Dr. Perry also told CBC News that advances in glioblastoma have been as rare as the cancer itself, because of the issue of awareness. But he says the advances that have been made, include safer treatments, and a better quality of life for patients.
He says the Gord Downie Fund for Brain Cancer Research could change all of that and maybe even lead to the ultimate goal of “beating this and having people live longer.” He also told CBC News that the money from the fund will go exclusively to “image-guided therapeutics,” non-invasive surgeries without scalpels, and recruiting and attracting more talent to do just those things.
Watch Dr. Perry talk to Global News about Gord Downie.
As for Gordy, Dr. Perry told CBC News he’s doing well and “having the time of his life.” He is also very aware that the Hip is quite adamant in calling this tour their swan song. That’s good news for Canadians, and just one more legacy to add to the Gord Downie name. What were your reactions to the show Saturday night?
[Photo by Arthur Mola/Invision/AP Images]