KAMLOOPS — On the surface, it seems like the news this week that Gord Downie has terminal brain cancer is just the latest in a long line of, shall we say, tragic news for the music industry this year.
It was David Bowie in January.
Merle Haggard left us in April.
Then it was Prince two weeks later.
Now, Downie has a death sentence, too.
Another superstar will be gone too soon.
But it's different with Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip.
Bowie, Haggard and Prince were global superstars; Downie is ours.
Those three belong to the world; the Hip belong to Canada.
They sang songs about spacemen and Americana and purple rain; Downie sings songs about hockey, about towns like Thompson, Manitoba and Bobcaygeon, Ontario.
Canada loves the Hip for the same reason we love the CFL and Kids in the Hall: because our neighbours to the south, against whom we measure ourselves, don't get it.
When, at the behest of Dan Aykroyd, the band played Saturday Night Live in 1995, it was supposed to be their big breakthrough south of the border.
But the performance so celebrated in Canada landed with a thud in the U.S., or an indifferent shrug.
Their Canadian fan base may have lamented the reception, but privately couldn't have been happier.
The Hip would remain our little secret.
Another, more important reason this one is different is because Gord Downie is still with us, and because Hip fans get a chance to say goodbye.
The band is going on a limited Canadian tour this summer.
They're hitting big cities with large gaps in between the dates, likely meant to give Gord as much rest and recovery time as he needs.
If you're a fan, go see them if you can.
Don't wait until the eulogy to fully and completely appreciate the man's greatness.