It’s no exaggeration that many Canadians are in pain after hearing the news this morning that Gord Downie died Tuesday night.
The Tragically Hip’s frontman, who had brain cancer, has been part of the national arts fabric for more than 30 years — the band released its first self-titled EP in 1987 and went on to sell more than 8 million albums globally.
While there are too many to mention, Billboard has compiled some key musical moments in Downie’s history with The Hip.
1984: The Tragically Hip formed in Kingston, Ontario, taking its name from a sketch in the Monkees’ Michael Nesmith’s video compilation Elephant Parts. The early lineup featured Gord Downie, Gord Sinclair (bass), Rob Baker (guitar), Johnny Fay (drums) and a saxophonist, Davis Manning, who left in 1986. Guitarist Paul Langlois later joined the fold. The lineup remained intact until Downie’s passing.
1987: The band’s self-titled debut EP, The Tragically Hip, produced by Red Rider guitarist Ken Greer, was released and spawned two singles, “Small Town Bring-Down” and “Last American Exit.” The Management Trust paid for it and RCA licensed it in Canada only.
1988: MCA VP of A&R Bruce Dickinson heard a track on a CMJ sampler, then flew to Toronto to see the band play two songs on the Toronto Music Awards and a full show the next night at the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern. He signed the band.
1989: The Hip’s first full-length album, Up to Here, was produced by Don Smith and sold 100,000 units the first year. Eventually it would be certified Diamond, signifying sales of a million copies, no easy feat in a country this size (Gold, at the time, was 50,000, and platinum, 100,000). It includes such radio staples as “Blow at High Dough,” “New Orleans is Sinking” and “38 Years Old.” The band also won a Juno Award for most promising artist.
1991: The Hip’s second full-length studio album, Road Apples, went platinum in 10 days in and they won entertainer of the year at the Juno Awards.
1992: The band’s third full-length album, Fully Completely, was loaded with singles, such as “Locked in the Trunk of a Car,” “Wheat Kings,” “Courage (For Hugh MacLennan)” and “Fifty Mission Cap. It too went Diamond.
1993: The Hip created Another Roadside Attraction, its own summer festival, that included Midnight Oil, Daniel Lanois, Hothouse Flowers and Crash Vegas on the first lineup. The five acts also released a charity single together entitled “Land” to protest clearcutting in British Columbia. The second festival, in 1995, included Blues Traveler, Matthew Sweet and others, while the last, in 1997, featured Sheryl Crow, Wilco, Los Lobos and more.
1994: Day for Night sold 300,000 copies in four days and was the band’s first release to debut at No. 1 on the Canadian Album Charts. It has since been certified 6x platinum and included singles “Grace, Too,” “Greasy Jungle,” “Nautical Disaster,” “So Hard Done By,” “Scared” and “Thugs.”
1995: The Hip get a coveted spot as musical guests on Saturday Night Live and were introduced by SNL alum Dan Aykroyd, a major fan of the band’s. The Canadian actor/comedian helped get them on the show. The band played “Grace, Too” and “Nautical Disaster.” They headlined their first concert at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens, played 30 U.S. dates with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant and toured Europe with The Rolling Stones.
1997: Trouble at the Henhouse went seven-times platinum and won three Juno Awards, including album of the year, beating out Celine Dion who had won a Grammy in the same category earlier that year (it contained her Titanic smash).
1998: The Hip’s seventh full-length, Phantom Power, produced five singles and won 1999 Junos for best single (for “Bobcaygeon” and best album design, and, in 2000, rock album of the year. It has been certified triple platinum.
1999: The Tragically Hip was selected to open then-brand new arena, Air Canada Centre. The band played there again on NYE and New Years Day to ring in the new millennium. They would frequently play the arena, including a 2004 stop that was recorded for the live DVD, That Night in Toronto, and three shows on their farewell tour in the summer of 2016.
2000: The release of Music @ Work, which went double platinum and won the 2001 Juno for best rock album. It also reached No. 1 on the Canadian Billboard charts. Los Lobos member Steve Berlin, who toured with the band on Another Roadside Attraction, co-produced the set. That year, on Canada Day (July 1), the band played to 10,000 people in New York City’s Central Park and in September a charity show for War Child at The Forks in Winnipeg, which drew 80,000 people and raised over $500,000.
2002: The Hip made a cameo as a curling team in Paul Gross’ film Men with Brooms. “Poets” and “Throwing Off Glass” are in the soundtrack. That same year, the band entertained Queen Elizabeth II with “Poets” and “It’s a Good Life If You Don’t Weaken” at Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall.
2005: The Tragically Hip was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame at the Juno Awards in Winnipeg. Later that year, the band released a box set, entitled Hipeponmous, that included a double CD; double DVD; a documentary, Macroscopic; an animated short film, The Right Whale; a 2004 full-length concert; two new songs and other goodies.
2006: World Container, produced by Bob Rock, spawns four singles and reaches No. 1 on the Canadian rock charts. The band toured Canada, Europe and the U.S., including some dates with The Who.
2008: The Hip opened the then-new K-Rock Centre. It is the same venue where the band played its final-ever show together on Aug. 20, 2016, which was broadcast to millions.
2012: To celebrate the release of Now for Plan A, the band’s 12th studio album, produced by Gavin Brown, the band played free mini-sets every hour, facing the street at the small venue Supermarket in Kensington Market on Pedestrian Sundays. Once word got out, they did the same thing the following Monday through the Wednesday.
2015: The band hit the road in Canada and the U.S. for much of the year to celebrate the remastered versions of Fully Completely, reissue in three packages — 2 CD deluxe, super deluxe and vinyl. All include the previously unreleased tracks “Radio Show” and “So Hard Done By,” but the deluxe versions both comes with a live album recorded at the Horseshoe in 1992.
2016: The announcement of the 13th and latest full-length studio album, Man Machine Poem, co-produced by Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene and Dave Hamelin, formerly of The Stills, came with the devastating news that Gord Downie had terminal brain cancer and that the band would be heading out on tour for one final time. His health closely monitored, Downie gave thousands of fans a touching goodbye. The final show in their hometown of Kingston on Aug.20 was broadcast live across all platforms on CBC. It was watched by an estimated 11.7 million people.