In celebration of the release of the new Tragically Hip album, In Between Evolution, and the Hip’s big Canada Day Concert at Toronto’s Molson Amphitheatre, ChartAttack is declaring June 25 – 30 “Tragically Hip Week.” Leading up to July 1, we’ve been posting stories culled from a recent interview with Hip singer Gord Downie.
Here’s the last installment:
The looming NHL strike/lockout may cause irreparable damage to the good name of hockey, but The Tragically Hip will continue to mine its most dignified moments in song. “Heaven Is A Better Place Today,” the first track on The Hip’s new album In Between Evolution is dedicated to Dan Snyder, the Atlanta Thrasher hockey player who was killed in a car accident last fall.
Synder died in October from the wounds he suffered when, as a passenger, he was thrown from teammate Dan Heatley’s Ferrari when Heatley lost control of the car, causing it to crash. Heatley broke his jaw and suffered a leg injury in the crash.
This would be far from the first time The Hip have used the world’s fastest game as a muse. “Fifty Mission Cap” is about the mystique behind Bill Barilko’s last goal/death, the song “Fireworks” is hockey-related and leadman Gord Downie has published a poem called “The Goalie Across The Street.”
In typical Hip fashion, though, Downie’s lyrics have layers of meaning that go beyond eulogizing a hockey player.
“I don’t know if it’s about anything so much as it’s a collection of, I don’t know, things people say to comfort each other, perhaps? Or themselves?” says Downie, who then sings one of the lines from the song to help articulate his explanation. “‘If and when you get into the endzone, act like you’ve been there a thousand times before.’ Like, it’s an ethos, it’s sort of ‘be cool, buddy.'”
Downie says it was the honour and dignity that Snyder’s fellow Thrasher teammates exemplified in the face of crisis which compelled him to write the song. The sight of young, strong men mourning a comrade’s senseless death has rather worldly parallels that aren’t to be ignored, either. Most importantly though, the song is about how bravely people face death.
“No one ever asks them [hockey players] anything else except about hockey. And around the events that you’re talking about, the one common denominator is that there’s nowhere to hide a conversation around death. There’s no easy, quick, humourous aside — unless you’re Irish — that gets you out of it. And people see it and rise to those sorts of occasions and say the correct thing. As close to correct as they can,” says Downie, who then sings/paraphrases some more from the song to articulate his point. “‘And heaven is a better place today because of this, but the world is not the same’… mmmmmmm… ‘don’t blame, but don’t say that people lose people all the time anymore.’
“And with this line, I guess again, you can take it broader. One could say you can’t treat these men’s lives with a soundbite. People lose people all the time. And death is a natural part of life, of course… but still.”
This story was originally published June 30, 2004 via Chart Communications.