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Published on October 16th, 2018 | by Amber Healy

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Artists trade music for murals to thank the Hip

For a band known for descriptive lyrics and beautiful melodies, there seem to be a lot of murals paying tribute to the Tragically Hip.

But it’s not just murals. In Kingston’s Springer Market Square, where 25,000 people gathered to watch the band’s final concert from a nearby arena, there’s a stone inscribed with the lyrics to “Blow at High Dough.”

 

The line just before the one etched into the city’s heart make this a fitting selection: “They shot a movie once in my hometown.”

Kingston was where it all began for Gord Downie, Johnny Fay, Rob Baker, Gord Sinclair and Paul Langlois. From childhood friends to college buddies, the city was never far from their hearts or their lyrics. It’s where most of the band lived and not far from their studio, the Bathouse, on the city’s western edge.

But Kingston is far from the only city that has shown love for the Hip in recent years.

Among the murals there for the viewing:

There are at least two in Toronto, including this one of Gord and Stompin’ Tom at the Horseshoe.

The venue is, of course, vitally important to Toronto’s music scene and played a big role in the Hip’s history, famously inspiring a line in Bobcaygeon.

There’s also this, a massive tribute to Toronto from artist Uber500, which features not only Downie in the Jaws shirt that appeared so often in the final tour, but also Rob Ford, Drake, the Ikea monkey and, of course, raccoons.

While there hasn’t been a direct, 100% explanation for the Jaws shirt, many think it was a nod to the song The Dark Canuck.

In , a group of student in grades 6, 7 and 8 at Sir Isaac Brock Public School worked together to create this tribute shortly after Downie’s death in October 2017

 

Artist Jeff Marceau painted this mural of Downie in North Bay, Ontario, eventually adding other Canadian music legends like Neil Young, Jim Cuddy and Neil Young, among others.

Some artists used chalk to express their appreciation to the band, like this logo from Toronto artist Victor Fraser.

 

Here’s one on the side of the Kawthra Coffee Company that prominently features its hometown of Bobcaygeon and lyrics from the song.

 

This might not be a mural, but it’s certainly meaningful: Waycobah artist Loretta Gould was to create this painting as a way of thanking Downie, from the Mi’kmaq community, for his attention and efforts toward reconciliation and sharing Chanie Wenjack’s story in The Secret Path. The painting depicts Downie meeting Wenjack in the afterlife.

 

And how’s this for a fitting tribute? Pianos in the Park, based on Ottawa, added a Gord Downie and Tragically Hip piano to its collection of decorated instruments in 2016.

That piano in particular has hit the road, going to Perth, Ontario, as part of a festival. People paid a small fee for a video of photo of them playing or sitting with the piano; two-thirds of the funds raised went to brain cancer research.

 

But not all Gord and Hip tributes are in Canada. Just over the border into Western New York, there are two murals, both of which appeared in 2017. The first was in Lockport, along the Erie Canal, and is part of a civic pride piece, painted by Jeffrey Sidebottom.

 

The other, bigger WNY mural has been photographed and mentioned in media on both sides of the Great Lakes: A massive, full-wall, vividly coloured mural on Buffalo’s Hertel Avenue. There are often chunks of chalk sitting nearby for people to leave little messages on the sidewalk in front of the mural.

 

Know of any others? Point them out in the comments!




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I write about music policy and lawsuits because they're endlessly fascinating.


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