The biography of “Canada’s band”
In the summer of 2016, more than a third of Canadians tuned in to watch what was likely the Tragically Hip’s final performance, broadcast from their hometown of Kingston, Ontario. Why? Because these five men were always more than just a band. They sold millions of records and defined a generation of Canadian rock music. But they were also a tabula rasa onto which fans could project their own ideas: of performance, of poetry, of history, of Canada itself.
In the first print biography of the Tragically Hip, Michael Barclay talks to dozens of the band’s peers and friends about not just the Hip’s music but about the opening bands, the American albatross, the band’s role in Canadian culture, and Gord Downie’s role in reconciliation with Indigenous people. When Downie announced he had terminal cancer and decided to take the Hip on the road one more time, the tour became another Terry Fox moment; this time, Canadians got to witness an embattled hero reach the finish line.
This is a book not just for fans of the band: it’s for anyone interested in how culture can spark national conversations.
Michael Barclay has worked for Maclean’s, CBC Radio’s Brave New Waves, and Exclaim!. He co-authored Have Not Been the Same: The CanRock Renaissance 1985–1995, which told the stories of the Tragically Hip, Blue Rodeo, k.d. lang, and dozens more. He lives in Toronto.
“Barclay’s remarkable chronicle of the Tragically Hip is as wide as it is deep. He sets down their story with a historian’s care and an artist’s rambling curiosity, revisiting each note with wit, expertise and so much heart. It's eminently readable, clever and funny — what an achievement.” — Sean Michaels, Giller Prize-winning author of Us Conductors
“Laying out the history of the band from the early years of its members and its founding in Kingston in the 1980s through to Downie’s final weeks, The Never-Ending Present is indeed as definitive a work on the band as anything that exists, and stands on its own against last year’s excellent documentary of the band, Long Time Running.” — Winnipeg Free Press
“Barclay combines his admiration of the band with his knowledge of the music industry to make a clever, touching, and very informative book that may well be the definitive work on an important piece of Canadian pop culture.” — Publishersweekly.com starred review
“As a fan, this is an immensely pleasurable read, full of anecdotes, info and lyrical insight I had never seen before. Curious, casual fans ?and serious Hip heads will find so much to love about this book. This is a monumental, definitive chronicle of the band.” — Stephen Dame, HipMuseum.com
“The Never-Ending Present climaxes with that exclamation mark, that night in August 2016, and even though the material borrows heavily from Barclay’s in-depth reporting and the time for Maclean’s, I minded little; it was appointment reading for me then, and it is a full and evocative accounting of the occasion now. It helps to explain why an event that had every reason to seem sad and funereal instead ended up indeed feeling like ‘a national celebration.’” — Literary Review of Canada
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