Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Inspiration to Learn: How Gord Downie’s Works Inspire Us to Learn About History

          Gord Downie is a prominent Canadian lyricist and poet who is the lead vocalist for the Tragically Hip. His lyrical works encourage listeners to further their knowledge of significant events in Canadian history. They achieve this by providing historical perspective, expressing uncommonly heard points of view, and highlighting events that need to be brought into the eyes of the public.

          One cannot truly understand an event until they understand the perspective of those involved. Without that, one lacks the full context of the situation. Gord Downie clearly knows this as his works often take the point of view of those involved in an event, rather than a mere observer. This allows for a more intimate understanding of the events. Take, for example, the song Born in the Water. It takes the perspective of the French at the time when Sault Ste. Marie declared themselves to be only English. By doing this, it gives listeners a closer understanding of what it felt like to be discriminated against as such. This clearly gives one a better understanding of the even than if it were an outsider’s retelling.

          Further, one cannot deeply comprehend happenings if they have only heard one side of the story. History is too often written by the victor. Gord Downie’s works flip this around and show views that are rarely heard. The song 38 Years Old is a good example of this. When a similar story is told, it tends to come from the point of view of a civilian or the escapees. Those sides would have very different views on the events. Instead, the song showcases the point of view of the brother of an inmate. This gives a more balanced view of the story as while he is sympathetic to his brother, he also experiences the fear of the rest of the city. This enriches the listener’s understanding even if they already knew about the event as they learn the effect on other parties.

          It is all too easy to forget the darker parts of history but these events will only repeat themselves if forgotten. This makes it all the more important to remember tragic events and horrible mistakes. Throughout his discography, Gord Downie has songs that call notice to important happenings that may have otherwise been ignored by the general public. For example, Gord Downie’s recent project, The Secret Path, tells the story of residential schools and children’s attempts at escaping resulting in death. This gesture is an important one as it educates the public of these Canadian tragedies and therefore helps prevent them from repeating.

          In conclusion, when listening to Gord Downie’s works, one can learn about events in Canada’s history and be inspired to research more about it. Throughout his pieces, he shows historical perspective, shows otherwise unheard points of view, and ensures he brings important events into common knowledge. This in no way means that one should simply listen to his works and stop there. They are parts of a bigger picture. They show the spirit of the events well but one also needs the details and context to truly understand Canada’s history. Now it’s your turn to learn. Choose one of Gord Downie’s songs, listen to it, and see where it takes you on your own journey through Canadian history.


"38 Years Old." Hip Museum. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2016. 

"38 Years Old Lyrics." AZ Lyrics. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.

"Born In The Water." Hip Museum. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.

"Born In The Water Lyrics." AZ Lyrics. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.

"Wheat Kings." Hip Museum. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.

"Wheat Kings Lyrics." AZ Lyrics. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.