This is one post in a series of fifteen. Each post will focus on one song by The Tragically Hip, a Canadian rock n’ roll band. I am a fan, not an expert. The thoughts expressed in these posts are my own, with the following two exceptions: I have drawn inspiration and knowledge from a book entitled, The Never Ending Present by Michael Barclay. I have, also, learned much from a website dedicated to Hip fans, entitled The Hip Museum. I will give credit to either source when applicable.
And, speaking of lending a voice……..for longer than anyone can imagine, the Indigenous Peoples have lived on the land that has come to be known as Canada. Their voices have a long, strong, proud tradition. Unlike Gus, the Polar Bear, who did not have the ability to advocate for himself, the Indigenous Peoples have long sung their song. Unfortunately, we, as Canadians, have not done a very good job of listening.
Of all of the legacies Good Downie and The Tragically Hip leave behind, their respect for the beauty and importance of Indigenous culture stands at the forefront. The story behind the song, Goodnight Attawapiskat, is a case in point. Attawapiskat, like many First Nation communities, has a long history of existing in sub-standard conditions. Basic rights such as access to clean drinking water have been issues for entire generations there.
(#NEP) In the case of this song, the people of Attawapiskat had been attempting to build a school and were having a hard time doing so. The Hip came up and agreed to play a benefit concert. They headlined a bill that included several bands comprised entirely of local youth. At one point, Gord agreed to sing on stage with one of the bands. The female lead singer immediately stepped aside to give Gord the spotlight. Gord refused to let her sit any songs out, admonishing her band, good-naturedly, to never let anyone silence their singer. They performed Knocking on Heavens Door together.
Gord claimed that being at Attawapiskat deepened the feelings of respect he had for Indigenous Peoples and that he took that feeling with him everywhere he went afterwards. He was known to close shows from all over North America with the words, “Goodnight, Attawapiskat!”
“Hello! Good evening, folks!
We are the silver Poets
Here in our thousand mile suits
We’re here to get paid
We know nobody who ever got laid
Telling people what to do.”
A video of the band performing “Goodnight, Attawapiskat” in Attawapiskat, can be seen here.
As always, your comments are welcome. Please feel free to discuss this song, the lyrics, the musicianship or comment on your feelings toward Indigenous Peoples and the conditions they find themselves living in. Thanks for reading this post and enjoying an important song called Goodnight, Attawapiskat by The Tragically Hip.