So much has been written on the subject of death, something apparently imminent for Gordon Downie.
Gord's mastery is in writing about life, somehow drifting from distinct and imaginative vision to vision; his deceptively prosaic words ground us in a recognizable world, yet savor in the hazy space of recognition itself.
Those tableaux moments come to life through his recorded breath. Downie's not a singer, he's a shaman - he conjures realities from his history, imagination, or whatever ether our most talented actors draw from, and sets those emotional taps as punctuation to his words. He screams. He whispers. He takes characters and lives them through microphones for us to hold in memory.
It's 2009 and I'm in the back of a north Ontario taxi cab with a girl falling asleep on my shoulder. Bobcaygeon is fuzzing through the radio as the car climbs up and down the hills of the lakeside gravel road. I sing that song to her often over the next year, "I saw the constellations reveal themselves, one star at at time".
In high school, I had scanned Gord's entire first book of poetry at the public library so that I could study it at home. It changed the way that I thought about poetry and lyricism. It changed the way that I write and play music.
This is all sounding very solemn, which is allowed only perhaps today. There's plenty of mournful, tender songs from Downie & The Hip, but the emotional focus of their greater body of music is tonally of celebration. Even their politically-charged material, directly pointed at issue and tragedy, seems to find a charge of strength in the will and volume of its message.
I didn't know I was a fanboy. I didn't know that Gordon Downie was my hero - I didn't expect to weep at today's headlines. I suppose the good news is there's a Hip album on it's way. Kevin Drew's produced, and he says the album is about three things, "memory, transformation, and truth."