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Tragically Hip Biography

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Tragically Hip

Website: http://www.thehip.com
Category: Music

 Over the course of a fifteen-year recording career, The Tragically Hip have racked up both a singular body of music and an impressive array of career accomplishments. Their long association with Universal Music Canada (then MCA) began in 1988. Since then, the band have issued eight albums, collectively selling in excess of 5 million copies in Canada alone.

The group of five longtime friends (Gord Downie - vocals, Gord Sinclair - bass, Paul Langlois - rhythm guitar, Rob Baker - lead guitar, Johnny Fay - drums) from Kingston, Ontario formed in 1986. Music @ Work is their 9th album. More than thirty songs in their oeuvre have reached Top 10 status at Canadian radio.

The band have toured Europe with The Rolling Stones, and traversed the U.S. with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. They’ve appeared as musical guests on Saturday Night Live, and played the Saturday main stage at the 1999 Woodstock festival. In the U.S., The Tragically Hip have sold over a million records. Their remarkably loyal fans frequently travel hundreds of miles all over North America to follow The Hip (as they’re known to devotees) from city to city.

The music that’s engendered such singular devotion is an infectious melding of melody, rockist energy and lyrical insight. The 14-song album – which the band co-produced with Los Lobos member Steve Berlin, with whom they first worked on the 1998 album Phantom Power - showcases the fivesome’s trademark blend of effortless songcraft, organic instrumental innovation and artful lyrical vision on band-penned songs link “My Music At Work”, “Putting Down”, “The Bastard” and “Tiger The Lion”.

The latter number – which frontman and principal lyricist Gordon Downie calls “the most audacious thing we’ve ever done”-is an expansive epic that takes the group into excitingly uncharted musical and lyrical territory. Elsewhere, Julie Doiron, formerly of the noted indie combo Eric’s Trip, adds vocal harmonies to “The Completists”, “Toronto #4” and the haunting album-closer “As I Wind Down The Pines”.

Over the course of its career, The Tragically Hip has forged the sort of potent creative chemistry that can only be achieved through time and experience. “We’ve always felt that the strength of the group is that it is a group,” says bassist Gord Sinclair, “and it’s increasingly rare that bands are given the time to develop the kind of working relationship that we have. That’s allowed us to create an atmosphere where all five guys can feel like they have an equal voice in what’s going down, rather than relying on one or two songwriters, and that allows us to avoid repeating ourselves.

“We’ve developed a great system,” Sinclair continues, “where we all write on our own, and then we sit down together and each guy throws out ideas knowing that someone else is going to have something to complement them. That’s a great environment to work in, and it really frees us up and allows us each to concentrate on our strengths. No one’s wrapped up in the covetous your song/my song approach.”

It’s in the live arena that The Tragically Hip first built its reputation as a band to be reckoned with, and the group’s stage performances continue to be a rallying point for its impressively devoted fan base. A recent headlining gig at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom prompted The Village Voice to note, “Their live rep is on par with ‘70s Springsteen.”

Personally I need to be different every night and I need to figure out a way to reinvent it every night,” Downie says of The Tragically Hip live experience. “I think that creates an explanation for the fans, that it’s worth the effort to come to more than one of our shows.”

“We’re a collective, and everything we do is a reflection of the five of us,” concludes Downie. “A lot of it’s unspoken, and that has a lot to do with having been together for fifteen years. All of our decisions are basically built around that, and everything flows from that.”

- canEHdian.com

Resume: Discography
  • The Tragically Hip (1987)
  • Up To Here (1989)
  • Road Apples (1991)
  • Fully Completely (1992)
  • Day For Night (1994)
  • Trouble At The Henhouse (1996)
  • Live Between Us (1997)
  • Phantom Power (1998)
  • Music at Work (2000)
  • In Violet Light (2002)
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