Monday, August 3, 2015

T is for The Tragically Hip, Shania Twain, Tegan and Sara

     Like Sloan (in yesterday's post) and Rush, a few posts before that, The Tragically Hip have enjoyed a decades-long run of success, employing a lineup that has remained completely intact, right from the beginning.  Formed in Kingston, Ontario, lead singer Gord Downie, guitarists, Rob Baker,  Paul Langlois, Gord Sinclair and drummer, Johnny Fay, have served to create one of Canada's all-time most successful bands.  They have produced nine #1 albums, they have won 14 Juno Awards and they are already enshrined in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, even though they are still actively producing new material and successfully touring the country.

     The Tragically Hip are a rock band and produce straight-ahead rock songs.  What separates The Hip, as they are known, from other rock bands in Canada (such as Nickelback) is the poetry of their lyrics and their commitment to writing about Canada and all things Canadian.  Being able to hear songs about ourselves is a precious thing in this country and no one does it like The Tragically Hip.  They write about real people and real events in a way that elevates the importance of their stories and helps create a mythology that doesn't often happen in Canada.   For example, 50 Mission Gap is about Toronto Maple Leaf hockey player, Bill Barilko, who died mysteriously in a plane crash after scoring the Stanley Cup winning goal for The Leafs. Wheat Kings is a lovely song about David Milgaard, who was falsely accused of murder and imprisoned for many years.  Nautical Disaster is about the sinking of the British battleship Hood by the German battleship, Bismarck in World War II.  Bobcaygeon alludes to Toronto-area Nazi sympathizer, Ernst Zundel.  Three Pistols is about famous Canadian painter, Tom Thomson. And, on and on, it goes.   Even though many of these songs reference real life, they are nothing at all like nostalgic folk tunes.  They are powerful arena rock songs, delivered by Canada's most flamboyant and enigmatic showman, Gord Downie, and his friends, the Hip.  

     Whether seeing The Hip live or else, blasting their tunes with the top down, cruising down the highway, The Tragically Hip are Canada's national band.  Their music is the story of our lives in Canada. Their musical catalogue stretches into the hundreds of songs. Some of my favourites include, Ahead By A Century, Locked in the Trunk of a CarCourage (for Hugh MacLennan), Looking for a Place to Happen, Poets, At The Hundredth Meridian and 38 Years Old.   There are many, many more excellent Hip tunes but, for now, I will leave you with The Tragically Hip when they came to my hometown of Cobourg, Ontario.  I was in the crowd that night, along with my Father-in-Law, in a sea of lumberjack shirts and hockey jerseys, bottled blondes with skinny jeans and knee-high boots; all of  us, fists a-pumping, hearts a-pounding, shouting out our anthems.  As always, The Hip put on an awesome show.  In this year of 2015, they are the reigning and undisputed champions of Canadian music.

     Eilleen Regina Edwards was born in 1965 and was raised in a poor household, in an Ojibwe community near Timmins, Ontario.  Her father died when she was very young and her mother re-married, causing Eilleen to change her last name to Twain.  Twain witnessed many acts of domestic violence between her step-father and her mother. Not surprisingly, music became a refuge and an escape.  In order to help earn money, Eilleen Twain began performing on stage in local bars before she even had entered her teenage years.   Years later, when her music career had taken off and people called her, Shania, Twain recalled those early days of performing in bars or hunting lodges as being her form of a "School of the Performing Arts."   Twain claims that, in many ways, her hard-knock upbringing paid positive dividends because it helped her to develop a strong work ethic, a personal drive to succeed and survive, as well as, providing her with many opportunities to hone her skills as a musician while developing her craft as a songwriter.

    Eventually, Shania Twain came to the attention of local music producers who introduced her to producers further along the musical food chain, eventually culminating in a meeting with legendary music producer, Mutt Lange, in Nashville.  The two formed a musical, as well as, personal partnership that lasted all through Shania Twain's most successful period as a performer.   Always a combination of soulful songwriter, engaging live performer and very beautiful woman, Shania Twain was a huge star on many levels, with many different demographic groups.  She was equally as popular with men and as with women. Twain had her feet firmly planted in both, the world of Country Music and the world of Pop.  And, finally, Twain was just as proudly Canadian, as she was an international star.

   Shania Twain has sold more Country Music albums than anyone in history.  She has sold over 85 million records overall, making her one of the best-selling performers of all time, in any genre.  She is a member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and has her own star on Canada's Walk of Fame in Toronto, as well as, on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in California.  She has won multiple Juno, Grammy and Country Music Awards over the course of her career and is the only artist, ever, to have earned three consecutive "diamond" status records by the R.I.A.A. in the U.S.    Shania Twain has many, many hit songs such as Man! I Feel Like a Woman, That Don't Impress Me Much, Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under, Any Man of MineFrom This Moment On, I'm Gonna Getcha Good, Up and Forever and For Always.  

     Shania Twain has known the highest of the high points in her career; a career built upon a foundation of hard work and experience and personal struggle.  So, not surprisingly, when her marriage to Lange fell apart and she developed lesions on her vocal cords and had to retire from the limelight, Twain was able to survive with her dignity intact. Shania Twain is respected by fans, peers and critics alike for the quality of the person she is.  Consequently, now that she is taking the first, tentative steps back toward resuming her singing career, hopes are held high that she will succeed.


    As is quite often the case whenever a band achieves "overnight" success, the road travelled to that moment is often quite long.   In 2014, Tegan and Sara exploded onto the world musical scene with an album called Heartthrob and a hit song called, Closer.   Because of that album and that particular song, Tegan and Sara won three Juno Awards, as well as, several Western Canada Music Awards, too.  They were, also, shortlisted for The Polaris Music Prize.

     They have had several other hit songs emerge from that album, and, in earlier years, such as I Was a Fool, Goodbye Goodbye, I'm Not Your Hero, Call it Off and Back in Your Head.   But, none have reached the dizzy heights of Closer which has found its' way onto both of my daughter's iTunes playlists!   Whenever we hear the song on the radio, both girls sing it, word for word.  I am happy that they are old enough to appreciate a catchy pop song but, young enough to not fully understand what it means by lines such as, "I want you underneath me." :)

     In any case, twins Tegan and Sara Quin have been performing in their hometown of Calgary for almost half of their lives.  In 1997, while in high school, they won a Calgary-based competition for unsigned bands called Bandwarz. The prize of time in a professional recording studio allowed them to properly record a demo of some of their original, early songs.  This demo. helped pave the way for their first album called Under Feet Like Ours.   This album earned them the YTV Award for Best Band Achievement.  The notoriety that arose from this album earned them opportunities to sing at festivals and/or with other bands on tours and at concerts.  It, also, allowed them to become involved in recording songs for the soundtracks of television shows and for movies.   Gradually, ever so slowly, Tegan and Sara gained enough experience as performers that they were able to marshall the maturity needed to create a crticially-acclaimed album such as Heartthrob. 
     Tegan and Sara are definitely not an overnight success. But, they are poised to have a big year in 2015.

     A big tip of the hat goes out to the following performers whose names begin with a "T":

Modern rockers, Tokyo Police Club and Timber Timbre, legendary country/folk singers, Ian and Sylvia Tyson, rockers Three Doors Down, Punk pioneers, Teenage Head, Singer/songwriter, Ian Thomas, Singer, David Clayton Thomas (of Blood, Sweat and Tears), 2014 Polaris Music Prize Winner and Inuit throat singer, Tanya Tagaq, Soul act, Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers, Singer, Ian Thornley (of Big Wreck), Singer Margo Timmins (of The Cowboy Junkies) who, one night in Toronto, was able to walk across the street because I stopped my car to allow her to cross. She mouthed a "thank you" to me which makes us BFFs now, right?!  Carrying on...., Singer, Ken Tobias, Rapper, Tre Mission, Singer, Domenic Troiano, Rocker, Pat Travers, Pop star, Kreesha Turner, Rockers, Tupelo Honey, Metal band, Three Inches of Blood,  Alt-rockers, The Tea Party, Folk band, Tanglefoot, HipHop band, TBTBT (Too Bad To Be True), Psychedelic rockers, Tetrix, Rockers, Theory of a Deadman, Joel Plaskett's first band, Thrush Hermit, 80s rock band, Toronto, New wavers, Trans-X, 90s Alt-rock band, Treble Charger, rock band, The Trews, 70s supergroups, Triumph and Trooper, Electronic band, Tear Garden and, finally, a group that has been ripping it up through the Aboriginal music industry in Canada for a while now and who are now breaking through to the mainstream, Electronic/Techno stars, A Tribe Called Red

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