Thursday, July 8, 2010

"The Darkest One" - The Tragically Hip

I remember a time when I absolutely hated The Tragically Hip. I'm talking a hate so strong I would switch radio stations when I heard "Poets" or "New Orleans is Sinking". I think my issue was, being from a small Canadian Town, the Hip might as well have been the Rolling Stones, based on the amount of radio play and fame they acquired from the locals. Eventually I heard some Hip songs that received lesser commercial success like "The Darkest One" and "Long Time Running". I listened more and more to their lesser known songs and something strange happened... all of that hate that I had turned into love and admiration; for that grizzly, redneck, Gord Downie.

The USA can have you Avril
There are a few things I especially like about Gord Downie.

1. He is Canadian. Not Canadian in a sell out way like Avril Lavinge for example. She grew up in a small Ontario town, got famous (somehow??), and never looked back. She lives in LA and dates Brody Jenner from the Goddamn "Hills" while her hometown probably has her face and name plastered all over their welcome sign as their claim to fame. No, Gord Downie is certainly not like that, not about that.

He travels all over Canada playing shows at sold out, dingy, concert halls singing about Canada and being Canadian. He incorporates Canada into everything he does . He's worked with the Trailer Park Boys, Don Cherry as well as Corner Gas to name a few. Downie is humble and modest in the way that a true Canadian is. He never forgets his roots, and you can’t grow anything substantial without strong roots.

2. He gives it all. Gord Downie reminds me of Bruce Springsteen in the way that he always gives it his all. You can hear the intensity in his voice and you can see it in his face and his eyes when he's singing. On stage he’s sweating and screaming and almost on the verge of tears. He is 100% committed to his music and that is obvious.

3. His songs are unique and intelligent. Downie rarely sings about sex, booze and rock&roll. He sings about things that would otherwise never have songs written about them. He brings a light and a beauty to subjects that may seem pretty meaningless to the rest of us. He sings about the battle of Dieppe in "Nautical Disaster", the disappearance of Toronto Maple Leaf legend, Bill Barilko, in "Fifty Mission Cap" and immortalizes a small Canadian town in "Bobcaygeon".

4. He is not defined by his band. Downie certainly holds his own. He has put out 3 solo albums, "Coke Machine Glow", "Battle of the Nudes" and the newest, "The Grand Bounce". He is just as effective solo with an acoustic guitar as he is when playing with the band. He has published a book of Poetry which he included with his CD, "Coke Machine Glow". He is a Canadian legend in his own right.

"The Darkest One" is one of my favorite Hip songs because I can't get over the way Downie screams it. He howls the lyrics with such force and intensity he doesn't even pause for a breath. The song talks about a place where everyone is free to do what they want and be what they want. A place where the "Where the wild are strong, and the Strong are the darkest ones." It's a reverse view of today's society in which the "wild" and "dark" ones are the outcast. The video falls in line with the song and features characters from the “Trailer Park Boys” – the epitome of outcasts.

Come in, come in, come in, come in

From under these darling skies come in
It's warm and it's safe here and almost harkening
Off to a time and place now lost on our imagination

where you don't complain, but you still do
and you don't explain, if you want to- explain
what you believe you say without shame, 'I just do'
To say what you mean you don't mean what you say
-Or you do

Where the wild are strong
And the strong are the darkest ones
And you're the darkest one

Come in, come in, come in, come in
From thin and wicked prarie winds, come in
It's warm and it's safe here and almost heartening
Here in a time and place not lost on our imagination
Where you don't explain-but you still do
And you can't complain, if you want to-complain
Well you're real instrumental or supple
Or sexy as hell
Where you say "I believe" or say without shame
'I can't tell'

Where the wild are strong
And the strong are the darkest ones
And you're the darkest one
Oh and you're the darkest one
And if that's what you want
Oh then you're the darkest one


  1. I love your article. Darkest one is so close to my heart because I believe he knows perseverance and courage is not all fucking sunshine and roses. I think he is acknowledging those of us out there who fight, endure, love, scream and don't really fit in a socially wonderful way. We are oppositional, intelligent shites with huge hearts and imaginations.we don't want approval we want what is right for whomever needs it. Kind of like him but without that stunning voice. When he raised the glass up in that classic vid with the trailer park boys it was like he was pointing at those of us who are dark, strong, tough and true. When I get weary or pissed off, I watch the video and find the courage to move on. Nice to see you love the song too.

  2. This song means a lot to me. Darkest one is especially important to me, as it reminds me of my military service and time spent in policing. For many years I worked hard and never stopped to feel much. I went to Afghanistan and saw many things. I also had the duty of attending many suicides. I believe this song transcends. I began my career wild and free. Over the years I could tell my personality had changed and my moodm were dark. Maybe the darker we become the stronger we really are. Or maybe its opposite. Rest your soul Gord. Love your music and lyrics