The Tragically Hip: Song #5- At Transformation

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.

Early on, when the band was just coming together as a unit and trying to discover the voice with which they should speak to the world, they made an important decision. They decided that every original song they produced and put on an album would be done with joint credit given to all five members. (#NEP) Although Gord Downie often did most of the writing of the lyrics, the process of creating a song often involved each member of the band having their input, as well as, adding their knowledge of the music their instruments produced and how they could add layers of meaning to Gord’s lyrics. As you may know, a strict reading of the lyrics to almost any Hip song does not give too many hints at what the song actually sounds like when it is performed by all five members of the band. Gord’s voice was as much an instrument as any guitar; his lyrics akin to the notes and chords of his bandmates, combining to produce a musical performance that was always unique, visceral and mesmerizing to behold. For that reason, I have always preferred watching The Hip perform in person (when they were still touring) or now, watching videos of live performances captured for posterity. The song, “At Transformation” is an exception to this rule.

All five members of The Tragically Hip were multi-talented men. Rob Baker was as talented an artist as he was a guitarist. Baker studied Visual Art at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario (where the band originated). He was responsible for designing most of The Hip’s album covers and t-shirts in the early days of their career. Baker even won a Juno Award for his work on the album cover to Phantom Power. Flash forward a few years……..when Gord Downie’s wife, Laura, was recovering from breast cancer, the band took a short hiatus from recording and performing. During that stretch of time, Rob Baker was able to indulge in his passion for Art by creating his own original work, as well as, taking in Art shows by other artists of interest to him. One such show was by a young man named Cameron Tomsett. Baker was impressed with Tomsett’s work and brought several pieces back for the boys in the band to look at. They were impressed enough that they commissioned Tomsett to create the album cover art for their new release, “In Between Evolution” (which can be seen at the top of this post). Tomsett’s art and sense of artistic expression were, also, incorporated into the video for “At Transformation”. In my opinion, the video is stunning! The song’s lyrics describe the battle to survive cancer and fight for life anew so, the words have an intensity all of their own. However, like all Hip songs, the introduction of the influences of the rest of the band take Gord’s lyrics to a new level of urgency and passion. Art and Music have a transformative effect on all of our lives, just as they did on each Tragically Hip song, just as they do in this Tomsett-inspired video.

Gently breathing
Lit by the morning sun.
Through the night,
It had been raining venom.I want to be kind,
Not a bullet in the right place
Or just of two minds,
More important than important.”

The brilliant video for “At Transformation” can be viewed here.

Thanks for visiting my blog and reading this post. Please feel free to comment on any aspect of this song, on Art that moves you or on the beauty of collaboration or anything else of interest to you now that you have read this post and watched this video and listened to these lyrics. Thanks to every member of The Tragically Hip for making such good Art.