What Is Hip? The Life and Times of The Tragically Hip [book review]

WHAT IS HIP- The Life and Times of the Tragically Hip

Canada is celebrating 150 years of being Canada and when What Is Hip? The Life and Times of The Tragically Hip came across my desk I thought it would be a nice way to celebrate. By reading books about Canada and Canadians.

Makes sense, right?

The Tragically Hip is one of those legendary stories, everyone I know has a moment where he or she discovered The Hip and many of my friends made it out to their farewell tour.

My journey began with purchasing Road Apples on cassette. What what. I may even still have it somewhere. Even thinking about it song lyrics float through my mind and I smile. What was it about The Tragically Hip that has us so captivated?

To be honest, I didn’t find out in this book. I had hoped I would, but it’s more of a Wikipedia history of the band’s career. It’s all interesting and factual but I guess I was looking for more heart. Perhaps what put me off was reading the introduction. You know, before the book started. Author Marc Shapiro goes out of his way to say he didn’t write the book to capitalize on lead singer Gord Downie dying of brain cancer. I found it strange to have to even bring it up and couldn’t shake the opposite opinion as I read the What Is Hip?

Weird, right? But because it seemed to be missing heart I found I doubted the author’s intentions, and even if he was a fan of the band. Not quite the reading experience I was hoping for.

That said, if you’re curious about the band this is an interesting biography showcasing a great Canadian story. Why not grab a copy and decide for yourself if this is a worthy tribute?


What Is Hip? The Life and Times of The Tragically Hip Synopsis

“The Tragically Hip…the soundtrack our lives.”—Justin Trudeau

On August 20th, 2016 11.7 million Canadians stood transfixed, watching the final concert of The Tragically Hip, and the rest of the world asked, “Who is this band?” New York Times Bestselling pop journalist Marc Shapiro answers that question in the first American book about this Canadian rock band that largely shunned the spotlight but has become the standard bearer of a resurgent sense of Canadian pride and patriotism. What is Hip? The Life And Times Of The Tragically Hip delves deep beneath the surface of this rock and roll story to discover how a band that spent more than three decades in the rock and roll trenches selling millions of albums and opening for the likes of The Rolling Stones, The Who and Led Zeppelin’s Page & Plant, remained almost unknown outside their home country, even as they rose to the level of rock royalty in Canada.

What Is Hip: The Life And Times Of The Tragically Hip reveals:

  • The behind the scenes story of how the band took over The Horseshoe Tavern and made it their own
  • How a high up political personality was instrumental in landing the band their manager
  • The day-to-day, often unforgiving, spirit-grinding days of life on the road in Canada

The ins and outs of opening for three of the biggest groups in the history of rock and roll The Tragically Hip are not cartoon rockers. They are real men who live by their creativity and their principles. Through extensive research and a couple of well-placed sources, author Marc Shapiro has put together a complete look at The Tragically Hip’s rise: from their humble Kingston, Ontario roots, to endless tours, to their internal struggles to keep their music fresh, to the fanatic loyalty they fostered in millions of Canadian fans. These fans shed more than a few tears when it was announced that singer Gord Downie had been diagnosed with brain cancer, and that The Hip were about to embark on what might be their final tour.

Marc Shapiro is the author of more than 75 books. His most recent releases include Trump This! The Life And Times Of Donald Trump and Hey Joe: The Unauthorized Biography Of A Rock Classic. When he is not working, which is rare, he can usually be found mowing the lawn, taking out the trash and walking the dog.

My journey began with purchasing Road Apples on cassette. What was it about The Tragically Hip that has us so captivated?

Five Words To Sum Up College Radio: Dead Air Um Dead Air

First things first, this is my all-time favourite Strongbad Email.

And if you can’t watch this video for whatever reason, please do yourself a favour and watch it here. Maybe you won’t be as tickled as I am by it but at least you’ll understand the title of this post.


My husband and I decided to check out a public/community/college station podcast a few nights back because it promised a review of some B-movie called The Human Centipede. How could you resist, right?

This may seem like an obscure podcast to run across and indeed, it probably would be except it was a show hosted by a Facebook friend…on the station I used to have my very own show on.

So it wasn’t as random as I made it out to be. But the show…was so everything college radio promises to be. Including “Whoops I played the wrong track there,” to “Oh I read page four in the script instead of page two.” Oh live radio.

I still work in radio, as you may or may not know, but wayyyyy behind the scenes.

This ain’t no Pop Rocks!

It makes me thankful for all my awkward public slash college radio experience, what a great way to learn from the ground up. It also makes me thankful to be producing syndicated programming now…oh the horrors of live radio!

Anyway, ever since the podcast I’ve been reliving my radio show days. It’s funny how one small thing can bring it all tumbling back. Even though you thought all the memories were long gone.

And as for the human centipede, well let’s just say in true teaser fashion we had to listen (OK I’ll admit it, we fast-forwarded much of the scripted drivel) till the VERY end only to learn it was, as we expected, a horrible movie, which we now MUST watch.

Thank you college-public hybrid radio. No really, thank you.

Vampires Make Music Too

Vampires make music too

There’s an indy band I enjoy called Vampire Weekend and I hope you like them too.

My favourite song is called Oxford Comma from their first album (self-titled) and I enjoy it very much for three reasons:

  1. They sing about grammar
  2. They sing about UK grammar
  3. I find the musical arrangement interesting and they use piano/keys, which is awesome

Oh, there is an f-bomb so buyer beware.

Here are some other interesting things about Vampire Weekend.

  • The band has two albums Vampire Weekend (2008) and Contra (2010)
  • In November 2011 the band announced they’re in the studios again, preparing for a third album
  • They’re from New York, but are more popular in Europe (although growing in popularity in North America now that indy music is mainstream)
  • You may have heard VW songs in the following movies: Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, I Love You, Man and Eclipse (interesting!?)
  • The band met while all attending Columbia University
  • Their name comes from the title of a short film project one of the band members worked on

Career Decisions and Kindred Spirits

Like I said before, in my early-20s I went up to northern B.C. and stayed there for 18 months. I think I stayed so long because I didn’t know what else to do. You know what I mean?

I was enamoured by the beauty of the north, and I explored as much as I could. I even hiked to the summit of the mountain in this photo twice. Not a super long climb, but also not the easiest day hike in the world. I felt pretty proud of my achievement, especially since I hate hiking and get a bit grumpy when the going gets rough.

Well, after a while I got pretty bored. I was isolated and, well, ready to move on. So I stuck out a second summer up north to save enough money to go back to university.

I chose journalism because I already had a media diploma and I wanted something that was both versatile and timeless. My heart was in radio broadcasting but I felt like it was a bit limited. Especially since we were hearing rumours of things like “satellite radio with on-demand music.” Whatever that was.

I had also decided that I wanted to be as close to my hometown as possible. I had been away for three or four years and was feeling a bit lonely. Don’t get me wrong, I was having a great time. But… well, there’s no place like home.

But actually, turns out the closest bachelor of journalism degree program offered to my hometown was Kamloops. Three hours by car with a mere two high mountain passes in between. No big deal. I figured Kamloops was a heck of a lot closer than I’d been in years so let’s go for it.

By the end of my second summer up north I had secured a spot in the 25-person b-jour program in Kamloops and packed up my 1991 Dodge Shadow to the brim and drove the nine hours south.

Since I already had a diploma in media, I managed to transfer into third year only a couple electives short. So I stacked my first semester and maybe one more after and managed to graduate on time.

Those two years were the most intense, the most amazing, and really the most fun I’ve ever had. The people in my program were kindred spirits. Never before have I met people who cared about exactly the same things I did. Career-wise. No one really ever “got” my dedication to details and facts and my fascination with the media. Here were people who did. How fun.

Incidentally, I also managed to join a thrash, hippie, reggae, hard rock band and started something called a “blog.”

This brings us to 2005/2006.

The Year of Robyn-ness

Tenth grade I really came into my own Robyn-ness. I really did!

Skating was going well, I was the best I’d ever been, and I was full of confidence. I had ideas and then I’d get ‘er done. It was like I had no fear… or didn’t notice it until later.

At the end of ninth grade I learned the vocal jazz choir was planning a trip to Europe the summer after tenth grade. I found this idea intriguing. The French class was going to France the same summer but this I did not find intriguing.

So, on a half-crazy whim I tried out for vocal jazz and… got in. It was quite the intimidating audition, one where the instructor would say random notes and tell me to sing it. Then he would play the note on the piano and make notes. He also asked me to sight read a song, sing some scales, and do some vocal exercises. I think my voice shook the whole time but… well, yeah. I already told you I got in.

As well in this year of my life a third high school opened in town. My school was suddenly half the size. My friendship group was suddenly half the size.

Because I got into the vocal jazz group, I stayed at the rural school instead of being tempted by the shiny new high-tech school (they had computers). I now did figure skating in my free time and vocal jazz on my lunch breaks. And loved every minute.

It was this year my friendship with a six specific people became very tight. Up until this point I grazed friendship groups and was acquainted with people but didn’t have many close friends. Now, I had BFFs. Oh, and Clueless came out that year so I knew what BFF meant.

As far as high school went this was the best year of my life. This was also the beginning of my love-affair with reclaimed clothing (AKA thrift store shopping). My love of interesting logos and sayings on shirts was rekindled and I began to experiment with my own sense of fashion.

Sometimes successful. Sometimes not. Mostly not probably.