The Tragically Hip played what will most likely be their last show this past Saturday. The band announced to the world on May 24, 2016 that lead singer Gord Downie had terminal brain cancer. I tuned in to watch the show – being broadcast internationally for free – of a band that is world-renowned and makes many Canadian proud.
The thing is, I was never a huge Hip fan. I liked the classics, I knew the lyrics to a few songs. They have fourteen albums and I am sure there are many people out there who could sing every single track off of every single album. But I have never seen them live, I have never even purchased any of their music.
But I still tuned in.
And I can guarantee you that I am one of many in the same boat. Twitter was flooded with tweets and pictures of people watching the show, live, online, or over the television. Almost every bar across the country had the show playing on big screens as people sat in common love for this band. Cities from coast to coast organized events in parks and rec centers to have the show played on projectors for massive crowds to enjoy. Families gathered in the comfort of their living rooms to watch a Canadian icon take the stage one last time.
When listening to the medley of songs, every now and then you could see the various band members looking at Downie. Their faces showed a mixture of sadness, worry, and love. When looking at the tweets that were coming in relentlessly, it is obvious that this man, this band, have had an enormous impact on the country. Millions of people across the nation were watching this performance. We were watching a person who is dying with each passing moment, but he is still putting on a performance for every single fan, and then some. I could not help but get teary-eyed just thinking about the impact of this single show.
This performance was a national moment, an event of significance that brought people together who did not know each other, who shared nothing in common but the love of music. We all joined in this moment, no matter what your ethnicity, your religion, your gender identity, your political stance. For this performance, more than twelve million people came together. Even during their final show – a farewell to a man who has such finite time left – there was a beautiful celebration of unity.
I was originally going to take a patriotic approach to this blog post, to claim how proud I was to be Canadian while witnessing what was going on in the world. Truly, this felt like a very Canadian moment, something that only this nation could do. But then, while watching the show, I tweeted out: It is hard to be Canadian tonight and not emotional. #TheHip must be on televisions coast to coast. And I received a reply from @PetalEkelman saying: And around the world, too. And then it hit me. Being able to come together like this, this act of pure beauty and love, his not uniquely Canadian.
It is human.
Too often these days you can turn on the news, open your Facebook, listen to people on the streets, and you will be bombarded with hate. But then you can turn on something like this performance and see just how much people can come together. How easy it is to unite together over a common cause. Fear and hate and division are popular, but there is nothing stronger than our ability as human beings to come together. If millions of people can come together for a band, if that one group is able to touch so many lives, then there is no telling what we can do.
At one point during the show, Gord Downie stopped to address the crowd. He touched on how long the band has been playing, and the support they have received. He said to those millions of people watching, "thank you for keeping me pushing". And you could see the love and passion for this band since they began and the national rally when it was announced that Downie was dying. But, I must correct you, Mr Downie. You see, you have it backwards. You are the one that brought all of these people together. In a world that is teeming with hate, you turned your devastating news into a thing of such unity. Something tragically beautiful. So from all of us to you:
Thank you for keeping us pushing.